Dallas County Judge Tonya Parker, who has the power to perform legal marriage ceremonies in her court though is not required to do so, has said that until marriage equality is legal in Texas she will not preside over heterosexual marriages.
Judge Parker, who identifies as a lesbian, aims to use this tactic to raise awareness about the inequality of Texas state’s current law.
Parker made these comments to a Feb. 21 meeting of the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, saying:
“I use it as my opportunity to give them a lesson about marriage inequality in this 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.’ And it’s kind of oxymoronic for me to perform ceremonies that can’t be performed for me, so I’m not going to do it.”
You can watch a video of Parker’s comments below:
Judge Parker has received some criticism saying that she is failing to do her job properly by refusing to wed opposite-sex couples. However, she has since issued a statement clarifying that while judges can preside over marriages the job does not require that they do so, and that she never turns a couple away without first ensuring that they can have their marriage officiated by someone else.
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.
Another story of workplace protest also arose this week where a gay hairdresser refused to cut the hair of New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez for her stance against marriage equality. Read more on that here.