Sunday, August 16, 2015

216.4 - Good News: Advisory panel tells judge in Ohio he can't refuse to perform same-sex marriages

Good News: Advisory panel tells judge in Ohio he can't refuse to perform same-sex marriages

We have yet some more good news, this time on an area we have talked about before, in fact talked about a lot: same-sex marriage.

Once the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to get married on the same basis as opposite-sex couples, a rational person could be forgiven for thinking okay, that's done, let's move on.

But of course we can't, because the reactionary homophobic bigots continue to look for ways to block or at a minimum limit the ability of same-sex couples to actually exercise that right. County clerks have simply refused to issue marriage licenses to them. Judges and other civil officers have simply refused to marry such couples.

Well, rack one up for the good folks. A judge in Toledo, Ohio, had asked for an accommodation to refuse to marry same-sex couples because of his claimed sincerely-held religious beliefs. On August 10, the Board of Professional Conduct of the Ohio state supreme court issued an advisory opinion stating that
a  judge should be mindful of the requirement to perform administrative duties without bias or prejudice despite the judge’s personal, moral, and religious beliefs.
And if a judge did perform opposite-sex marriages while refusing to perform same-sex ones, that judge "acts contrary to the judicial oath."

That is, the court said, you as a judge have a responsibility, even more than others, to follow the law as it is, not as you wish the law was.

The only way around this, the court said, was for a judge to decline to perform any marriages at all - but it added that if you do that to avoid having to do same-sex marriages, that "may be interpreted as an improper bias or prejudice against a particular class" and "raise reasonable questions about his or her impartiality in proceedings where sexual orientation is at issue."

Now, this was an advisory opinion, not a binding one, but still the meaning is clear: When you put on the robe, you have to leave your bigotry aside. If you can't do that, you shouldn't be a judge.

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