Texas Judge Tonya Parker is sparking controversy with her refusal to marry straight couples until the LGBT community has equal rights under the law, reports the NY Daily News.
Parker explained her decision at a monthly meeting for the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas:
“I do not perform them because it is not an equal application of the law. Period,” she said.
According the Daily News, Parker, the first openly lesbian African-American elected official in the history of the state according to NBC News, is honest with the couples that she turns away, refusing to let them leave unclear about her decision:
“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,” said Parker. “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.”
Though the Dallas Voice reports that there have been critics who claim that Parker is willfully neglecting her judicial duties by not marrying hetero couples, her response makes it clear that they do not have a clear understanding of the law:
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.
According to GayMarriage.ProCon.com, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Washington, and the District of Columbia have all legalized same-sex marriage. Governor Martin O’Malley (D-Maryland), signed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in his state on February 24, reports ABC News. Thirty states have constitutional amendments banning gay marriage — Texas is one of them.
That brand of legal revisionism and inequality lives at the root of Parker’s refusal to join heterosexual couples in matrimony:
“…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,” she said.