Thurston County Superior Court Judge Gary Tabor is right. No judge is legally required to perform any marriages, whether they involve couples of the opposite or same gender.
Which is why his recent decision to announce that he would not perform same-sex marriage ceremonies is perplexing and disturbing. By making a public announcement, Tabor has revealed a personal bias.
Candidates for Superior Court judge positions work hard to avoid any appearance of bias during their elections. They avoid discussing how they might rule on a specific case or if they have opinions on certain matters or individuals that may appear before them if elected to serve on the bench.
Most judges continue to remain silent on their opinions after arriving on the bench in order to maintain the appearance of fairness and impartiality.
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But by stating that for “philosophical and religious reasons ... I do not wish to perform same-sex marriages,” it appears that Tabor is creating a courtroom where same-sex couples and members of the gay, lesbian and transgender community might not receive equal treatment.
That may not have been Tabor’s intention, but that certainly is how it appears. And appearances speak volumes in the courtroom.
Attorneys with gay, lesbian or transgender clients may now be looking for ways to avoid Tabor’s courtroom.
It is surprising that Tabor, with 35 years’ experience on the bench, didn’t simply announce he would no longer perform any marriage ceremony, period, and kept his reasons to himself.