Washington state judge faces formal reprimand for refusing to officiate same-sex “weddings”
OLYMPIA, WA, October 8, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A Washington state judge has been officially reprimanded by the Judicial Conduct Commission after refusing to officiate same-sex weddings for what he said were “philosophical and religious reasons.”
Thurston County Superior Court Judge Gary Tabor first came under scrutiny by the Commission after Washington voters approved a measure late last year authorizing same-sex “marriage” in the state. Immediately prior to the law’s taking effect, in a private meeting between judges and court personnel, Tabor had expressed discomfort with the idea of officiating gay nuptials. One of the attendees later leaked his comments to the press, which reported them widely.
Tabor told reporters at the time that his opposition to same-sex marriage was personal and rooted in his religious views. Because judges are permitted, but not required to officiate weddings, Tabor said he believed he had the right to choose to officiate only those marriages he was comfortable supporting, as long as a substitute could be easily found to replace him. Eventually, though, the media frenzy prompted Tabor to announce he would simply no longer officiate any weddings at all, in order to avoid the perception of bias.
But in May of this year, the Judicial Conduct Commission filed a complaint against Judge Tabor, arguing that in refusing to perform gay weddings, he violated the state’s anti-discrimination law, which names sexual orientation as a protected class, and that his personal statements against gay marriage could cause people to lose their faith in the justice system.
This week, Tabor agreed to sign his name to a formal admonishment – the lowest form of censure issued by the Commission – in which he agreed that by publicly expressing his religious opposition to same-sex “marriage” and officiating weddings only for opposite-sex couples, he “appeared to express a discriminatory intent against a statutorily protected class of people, thereby undermining public confidence in his impartiality.”
Tabor agreed that his stated 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.”
While the Commission conceded that Tabor “initially concluded, in good faith, that he could ethically decline to perform same-sex weddings based upon his personal religious views so long as same-sex couples were accommodated by having access to another judge without delay,” they claimed “his analysis did not adequately take into account the unique and integral role judicial officers play in our constitutional scheme of justice, and how a judge must not only be impartial, but must also be perceived as impartial, in order to properly fulfill that role.”
Judge Tabor was not available for comment, but the Thurston County Superior Court released a statement saying: “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.”