Judges in Ohio should not refuse to perform same-sex marriages based on personal or religious beliefs, the state’s Supreme Court said in an informal, nonbinding opinion released on Monday.
The advisory opinion was issued in response to inquiries from judges and a judicial association seeking guidance, after a number of Ohio judges refused to marry same-sex couple or halted civil marriages altogether.
The opinion cited the June 26 U.S. Supreme Court Obergefell v Hodges ruling that legalized gay marriage nationwide, effectively invalidating Ohio’s law prohibiting marriages not between a man and a woman.
“A judge’s unilateral decision to refuse to perform same-sex marriages based on his or her own personal, religious, or moral beliefs ignores the holding in Obergefell and thus, directly contravenes the oath of office,” it said.
The seven-page opinion said refusing to perform gay marriages could bring into question a judge’s impartiality in other matters.
“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,” it said.
The state Supreme Court issued the opinion after requests from judges including Toledo Municipal Judge Allen McConnell.
McConnell refused to marry two women in July, and said in a statement that his decision was based on his personal and Christian beliefs. Another judge married the couple, and McConnell sought an advisory opinion about whether he could opt out of the rotation that would have him perform civil marriages.