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Judge who refused to marry same-sex couples suspended without pay

Nick Duffy March 15, 2018

A judge who employed a secret scheme to avoid marrying same-sex couples has been suspended without pay.

Judge Vance Day of Salem, who was a Marion County Circuit Court judge, was found guilty of “wilful misconduct” by the Oregon Supreme Court.

The judge, a former chairman of the Republican Party in Oregon, had come under fire in 2015 when he ordered staff to secretly redirect same-sex couples wanting to marry to other judges to solemnise marriages.

Day later claimed the decision not to perform the marriages was based “deeply-held religious beliefs”, but initially acted to conceal his policy from the public and the legal system.

The state Supreme Court suspended the judge for three years without pay – adding that a “lengthy suspension” is required “to preserve public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.”

The ruling covered not only his gay wedding order, but also unrelated allegations of “willful misstatements” to investigators and “exceptionally serious misconduct” related to cases.

The court wrote: “Before [a court ruling that legalised same-sex marriage], respondent had made himself available to solemnise marriages.

“After that ruling, he told his staff that, upon receiving any marriage request, they should check for any personal gender information available in the court’s case register system, to try to determine whether the request involved a same-sex couple.

“If so, they should tell the couple that he was not available on the requested date or otherwise notify him so that he could decide how to proceed.

“If the request were from an opposite-sex couple, however, then they should schedule the wedding date.”

It added: “The Court concluded that respondent’s conduct had been willful and had violated Rule 3.3(B) (prohibiting manifestation of bias or prejudice in the performance of judicial duties) and
related constitutional provisions.”

The Supreme Court did not make a misconduct ruling over the issue because of the several others against Day.

It added:  “In light of the other, notably serious misconduct that the commission had proved by clear and convincing evidence, the misconduct at issue [over gay weddings] would not affect its consideration of the appropriate sanction, regardless of whether those constitutional challenges were meritorious or not.”

The court later added: “After considering respondent’s willful misconduct that the commission proved by clear and convincing evidence, the applicable factors in ascertaining the appropriate sanction, and the totality of the circumstances, we impose a three-year suspension without pay as the appropriate sanction.”

The judge previously defended having a portrait of Hitler hung in his office in the courthouse.

His spokesperson claimed the picture was hung as part of a display about World War II.

He said: “We went to war against Hitler… His picture was there. It was not admiringly. It was him as the epitome of the enemy that we went to fight against.”

More: equal marriage, Gay, judge, Judge Vance Day, Law, LGBT, same sex marriage, US

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