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Washington judge admonished for saying he’s ‘uncomfortable’ marrying same-sex couples

A judge in Washington has been admonished for saying he felt 'uncomfortable' performing same-sex wedding ceremonies. In this photo Cynthia Wides, left, and Elizabeth Carey hold hands on their wedding day. (AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez photo)

A Washington Superior Court judge won’t perform any weddings after being admonished for saying he didn’t want to marry same-sex couples.

Thurston County Judge Gary Tabor went on record saying he felt “uncomfortable” performing gay marriages, which are now legal in Washington. He asked colleagues if they would step in and perform such ceremonies instead.

Tabor didn’t respond to my request for an interview, but according to a document filed with the Commission on Judicial Conduct, he felt like he wasn’t doing anything wrong since judges do not have a legal responsibility to perform marriages. That’s an optional duty in our state.

Although he did not refuse to perform a same-sex marriage, a court employee, who was aware of Judge Tabor’s views, reassigned a gay-marriage ceremony to another judge at the courthouse without his knowledge.

After investigating, the Commission on Judicial Conduct gave Judge Tabor a formal admonition.

They believed Tabor brought into question impartiality of the judiciary. An admonishment amounts to a warning and is the least severe punishment from the panel that oversees the ethics of judges.

As part of an agreement, Judge Tabor conceded that he had “created an appearance of impropriety.” Judge Tabor, who was elected to the bench in 1996, was ordered to refrain from repeating his conduct.

In its decision, the commission said it is against the law to discriminate in Washington based upon sexual orientation. Once Tabor agreed to solemnize heterosexual marriages, he was bound to do the same for homosexual couples, according to the commission’s ruling.


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