Judge Reprimanded for Refusing to Officiate Same-Sex Weddings for Religious Reasons
Thurston County, Washington Superior Court Judge Gary Tabor has been formally reprimanded by the Judicial Conduct Commission for his refusal to officiate at same-sex weddings. Tabor gave “philosophical and religious reasons” for his refusal.
According to Kirsten Andersen of LifeSiteNews, Tabor had discussed his personal discomfort with same-sex weddings last year during a private meeting with judges and court personnel after the state legislature passed a measure allowing them. Apparently, an attendee at the meeting later leaked his remarks to the press.
Tabor responded to reporters that his opposition to same-sex marriage was personal and related to his religious views. He said he believed that because judges are permitted, but not required, to officiate at weddings, he had the right to refuse marriages he was not comfortable supporting as long as he could find a replacement. However, the media frenzy over Tabor’s refusal to officiate at same-sex weddings led him to announce that he would now refuse all weddings.
In May, however, the Judicial Conduct Commission filed a complaint against Tabor, claiming that in refusing to perform gay weddings, he violated the state’s anti-discrimination law, which says that sexual orientation is a protected class. In short, the Commission argued that Tabor’s personal statements against gay marriage, rooted in his religious beliefs, could cause Washington state citizens to lose faith in their justice system.
LifeSiteNews states that this week, Tabor agreed to a formal admonishment, the lowest form of censure that can be issued by the Commission. Stipulated fact #4 of the admonishment states:
4. Respondent’s statement that he felt uncomfortable performing same-sex marriages was broadly publicized after reporters learned about his position from an unidentified source. After the publication of several newspaper articles and related online comments, Respondent responded to press inquiries in order to clarify his position. He stated that his decision not to marry same-sex couples was a very personal one, based on his religious views. Respondent reasoned that since judges are not required, but only permitted, to perform marriages, he believed he was within his rights to personally decline to perform same-sex marriages, so long as those seeking to have their marriages solemnized had access to another judge without delay.
The agreement section of the admonishment states:
1. Respondent accepts the Commission’s determination that he created an appearance of impropriety in contravention of Canon 1 (Rules 1.1 and 1.2) and Canon 3 (Rule 3.1 (C)) of the Code of Judicial Conduct by publically [sic] stating he would not perform same-sex marriages in his judicial capacity while continuing to perform opposite-sex marriages.
The admonishment agreement also states that the Rules of the Code “oblige judges to avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety by acting at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in their independence, integrity and impartiality.”
By signing the admonishment, Tabor also agreed that in publicly expressing his religious opposition to same-sex marriage, he “appeared to express a discriminatory intent against a statutorily protected class of people, thereby undermining public confidence in his impartiality.”
Tabor also agreed that his views “could well have created the impression he might be less than fair to a lesbian or gay person” in the divorce and custody battles that are sure to follow the legalization of same-sex marriage.
LifeSiteNews reports that Judge Tabor was not available for comment. However, Thurston County Superior Court released the following statement:
Judge Tabor has accepted the Judicial Conduct Commission decision. It provides guidance to all judges in Washington state. No same-sex couples will be denied the right to be married in Thurston County.