Oregon judge refuses to perform same-sex marriages

MARION COUNTY, Ore. (KOIN) — A Marion County judge is under fire for reportedly refusing to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples.

The news comes on the same day a Kentucky clerk was jailed for contempt after she insisted it would violate her conscience to follow court orders to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

A spokesperson for Marion County Judge Vance Day said it’s his right to refuse to marry same-sex couples.

“I think the Supreme Court has ruled on the matter and the judge’s job is to implement the law,” same-sex marriage supporter Jack Brown said. “It’s just a violation of their job and I think they should be sacked for something like that.”

But KOIN 6 News learned it’s within Judge Day’s right to refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“In Oregon, judges don’t have to marry people,” Matt Dos Santos, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union said.

According to Santos, a court ruling in Nebraska clearly allows judges to bow out of marrying same-sex couples. But if they do, they also give up their right to officiate any wedding.

“The ethics violation would be that he took a discriminatory action by refusing same-sex couples who came to him and asked he officiate their wedding, while at the same time, officiating the weddings of heterosexual couples,” Santos explained.

According to Day’s spokesperson, the judge stopped performing weddings altogether this spring.

Day’s friend, Kevin Mannix, former chair of Oregon’s Republican Party, agreed.

“Actually, from what I know, Judge Day has not discriminated against anybody. Across the board he’s simply said ‘I’m not performing wedding ceremonies’.”

Documents revealed Judge Day applied to the Oregon Government Ethics Commission for funding to help defend himself against a complaint.

There have been nearly 2,400 same-sex marriages in Oregon since May 2014 — that’s 8% of all marriages in the state.

Same-sex weddings are continuing in Marion County, despite controversy over Judge Day. Staff members are issuing licenses to couples, and other judges are available to perform ceremonies.

When it comes to clerks, they are required by law to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

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