Politics

Ohio Judges Cannot Refuse To Marry Same-Sex Couples, Says State Board

| by Ethan Brown

Judges in Ohio who are willing to perform marriages of heterosexual couples must also agree to administer same-sex weddings, according to a new ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court’s Board for Professional Conduct.

The ruling was in response to a judge refusing to marry a lesbian couple in July 2015, just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was legal in all 50 states. Judge Allen McConnell used his religious beliefs to explain his refusal to marry the same-sex couple.

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“On Monday, July 6, I declined to marry a non-traditional couple during my duties assignment,” McConnell said. “The declination was based upon my personal and Christian beliefs established over many years. I apologize to the couple for the delay they experienced and wish them the best.”

Just days after his refusal, McConnell explained that he will perform “traditional marriages” and was “seeking an advisory opinion from the Supreme Court of Ohio” to determine if he can “opt out of the rotation” that judges are scheduled in advance, Reuters reported.

The state’s judicial board did not agree with McConnell’s reasoning, saying that refusing to marry a same-sex couple “amounts to a violation of a judge’s oath of office.”

The board stated: “The oath represents the judge’s solemn and personal vow that he or she will impartially perform all duties incumbent on the office and do so without regard to the status or class of persons or parties who come before the court.” 

The board also questioned whether judges who refuse to marry same-sex couples could be impartial in other cases involving those same couples.

“For example, if a judge who has declined to perform same-sex marriage is later assigned to hear a misdemeanor domestic violence charge involving a same-sex couple, the judge’s ability to follow the law and impartially apply the domestic violence laws could reasonably be questioned,” the board said.

Republican governor and 2016 presidential candidate John Kasich stated after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that he will still continue to believe in "traditional marriages," but agreed that Ohio must uphold the law to marry same-sex couples.

Sources: Reuters, Cleveland.com / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons