Judge Tonya Parker Refuses to Perform Heterosexual Marriages-Previously Truth! Now Resolved!
Summary of eRumor:
Dallas County Judge Tonya Parker refused to perform marriage ceremonies until homosexuals were allowed to wed.
It’s true that Judge Tonya Parker refused to perform marriage ceremonies back in 2012, but she has started performing them again.
Judge Tonya Parker said that she would not perform any legal marriage ceremonies in her courtroom until homosexual couples were allowed to wed back in February 2012. During an address to the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, Parker said
“I use it as my opportunity to give them a lesson about marriage inequality in this state because I feel like I have to tell them why I’m turning them away. So I usually will offer them something along the lines of, ‘I’m sorry. I don’t perform marriage ceremonies because we are in a state that does not have marriage equality, and until it does, I am not going to partially apply the law to one group of people that doesn’t apply to another group of people.’ And it’s kind of oxymoronic for me to perform ceremonies that can’t be performed for me, so I’m not going to do it.”
Judge Tonya Parker kept her pledge for three years. She didn’t perform a courtroom wedding until June 2015, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state bans on same-sex marriages were unconstitutional.
After Parker married a same-sex couple that had been together for 28 years, she said, “The decision today represents an opportunity where I can now marry couples that come to the courtroom, like any other judge.”
Tonya Parker, who is openly gay, has served as a judge since 2010. She was last elected to the 101st District Court seat in 2014.
Reports of Tonya Parker’s refusal to perform marriage ceremonies went viral after Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk, was jailed for contempt of court after she refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Comparisons between Tonya Parker and Kim Davis have sparked controversy because Davis was jailed for her stand, and Parker was not. A similar situation that played out in Oregon helps explain why.
Many questioned why Vance Day, a county judge from Oregon, wasn’t thrown in jail for contempt of court after he refused to perform same-sex weddings, Oregon Live reports:
“The clerk in Kentucky is required to issue marriages license,” Washington County Senior Judge Gayle Nachtigal said Friday. “That’s part of her job.”
For an Oregon judge, the situation isn’t so clear.
State law allows a wide range of officiants at marriage ceremonies. Among those allowed to conduct such proceedings, are state judges, federal judges, county clerks and religious congregations
Legal experts agree that judges here aren’t required to perform weddings. But if they do, can they choose not to officiate for some couples?
“Whether they could decide, ‘I’m not going to marry same-sex couples, interracial couples, or a very young person to a very old person,'” Nachtigal said, “I don’t know that that would be allowed ultimately.”
If a judge offers officiating services to the public, but only some of the public, “that’s when it starts to look like state-sanctioned discrimination,” said Mat dos Santos, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon.
If a judge stopped performing all weddings to avoid officiating for gay couples, dos Santos said, that would be disappointing but probably the most legally defensible practice.
So, Tonya Parker’s refusal to conduct wedding ceremonies held up for two reasons. First, judges aren’t required by law to perform marriages, they’re optional. Second, Tonya Parker refused to officiate all weddings — not just a particular type of wedding.