Ohio Judge Refuses To Perform Same-Sex Marriage Ceremony

Ohio Judge C. Allen McConnell declined to marry a same-sex couple in his Toledo courtroom this week.

After a 45-minute delay, another judge in the courthouse performed the civil ceremony for the two women who initially sought to be married by Judge McConnell, which was the first such ceremony in that court out of a total of 49 marriages to date this year.

Weddings in that courthouse are routinely performed every weekday afternoon by judges who share the responsibility on a rotating basis. Apparently, it happened to be Judge McConnell's turn on Monday.

The couple told the ToledoNewsNow that it was their intent to be married by a judge in a civil ceremony rather than a religious one. "We took great precaution not to offend a minister, that's why we went to a judge to get married, never dreaming that he couldn't follow the law," one of the women said.

The U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage on June 26 in its 5-4 ruling in the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges case.

Approximately 30 states had previously banned same-sex marriage by constitutional amendment before these state laws were disallowed by lower court federal judges, which culminated in the High Court ruling making same-sex marriage the law of the land.

Judge McConnell, who has been on the bench in the Toledo court since 2000 and served as president of the local NAACP chapter as well as on other boards, issued a statement about the situation.

"On Monday, July 6, I declined to marry a non-traditional couple during my duties assignment. 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. The court has implemented a process whereby same-sex marriages will be accommodated. I will continue to perform traditional marriages during my duties assignment."
The judge added that he is seeking guidance from the state Supreme Court as to whether he can opt out completely from performing any kind of marriages. "An Ohio Supreme Court spokesman said the court does not issue advisory opinions such as the one he requested. The Board of Professional Conduct, a group of lawyers, judges and citizens appointed by the Ohio Supreme Court, would review Judge McConnell's question," the Toledo Blade, however, reported.

Reacting to Judge McConnell's reluctance to preside over same-sex weddings, a Toledo Municipal Court official said that "It is the policy of the court to accommodate wedding requests and we will continue to do that for both opposite and same-sex marriage," Reuters explained.

Similar instances have occurred in a few other jurisdictions so far. "An Alabama judge had stopped issuing marriage licenses altogether after the Supreme Court ruling. A number of clerks in Kentucky have also refused to grant licenses to gay couples, citing religious belief in 'traditional' marriages," Talking Points Memo noted.

Setting aside whether the judge violated his public and/or ethical responsibilities by refusing to marry the couple on this occasion, do you think religious liberty/freedom under the First Amendment can coexist with gay marriage, which the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled is derived from the 14th Amendment?

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