A state judicial conduct board in Ohio has said state judges cannot refuse to marry same-sex couples because of personally held religious or moral beliefs. Moreover, the board found that refusing to marry all couples, an often thinly veiled display of anti-gay animus intended to thwart LGBT couples from being wed, could be interpreted as a biased move that would disqualify a judge from any case in which sexual orientation is an issue.
The opinion came from the Ohio Supreme Court’s Board of Professional Conduct and was issued Friday but was released Monday.
“Public confidence in the independence of the judiciary is undermined when a judge allows his or her beliefs concerning the societal or religious acceptance or validity of same-sex marriage to affect the performance of a judicial function or duty,” the board said. […]
The judicial board’s ruling is nonbinding but could be used by the Ohio Supreme Court for guidance.
The decision didn’t spell out specific punishment a judge could face for refusing to marry a same-sex couple.
Ohio judges who violate judicial codes of conduct face punishments ranging from reprimands to disbarment.
“For example, if a judge who has declined to perform same-sex marriages 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.
The Board’s opinion was in response to a Toledo judge who sought guidance from the board. The judge in question had denied a gay couple based on his personal beliefs.
Meanwhile, three judges in Guernsey County, Ohio recently announced they were getting out of the marriage business in the wake of the Supreme Court’s pro-equality ruling. Those officials allege their decision has nothing to do with same-sex marriage yet have offered no other explanation.