Gay Texas Judge Boldly Refuses to Perform Marriage Ceremonies Until Marriage Equality Passes
Juge Tony Parker is the first openly gay African-American elected official in the history of Texas, and she's using that unique position to speak out strongly for other members of the LGBT population. In 2005, Texans voted for legislation defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. And while Parker explains that it is not her official duty to perform marriage ceremonies, she also calls it "oxymoronic to perform ceremonies that can't be performed for me," and so she refuses to do so.
According to Raw Story, she said at a recent Stonewall Democrats of Dallas meeting:
I use it as my opportunity to give them a lesson about marriage equality in the 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.
But Parker makes sure she is not denying marriage to others, like the state denies it to her. She said in statement:
I faithfully and fully perform all of my duties as the Presiding Judge of the 116th Civil District Court, where it is my honor to serve the citizens of Dallas County and the parties who have matters before the Court.
Performing marriage ceremonies is not a duty that I have as the Presiding Judge of a civil district court. It is a right and privilege invested in me under the Family Code. I choose not to exercise it, as many other Judges do not exercise it. Because it is not part of our duties, some Judges even charge a fee to perform the ceremonies.
I do not, and would never, impede any person’s right to get married. In fact, when people wander into my courtroom, usually while I am presiding over other matters, I direct them to the Judges in the courthouse who do perform marriage ceremonies. If my deputy is not busy, I will even ask him to escort or help these individuals find another Judge who performs the ceremonies. I do this because I believe in the right of people to marry and pursue happiness.
According to the Dallas Voice, Parker also said she does not allow prosecutors to use the words "child molester" and "homosexual" as if they are interchangeable in her courtroom. What's more, the Voice says Parker adds the word "partner" when jurors are informed of directions that instruct them not to discuss cases with their "husband or wife."
“What I want to do is help those folks to have dignity in that moment that they are with me, to know that I see you,” she said.
In a state where voters favor marriage discrimination, Parker's position as a judge and outspoken marriage equality advocate could add dignity to the whole movement. At the very least, she helps to fill a great gap in Texas, where she is one of too few defenders of equal rights.