Foster care and adoption ministries praise ruling in Fulton v. Philadelphia
Jimmy Moore had been waiting for months for the U.S.…
Judicial authorities in the Pacific Northwest state of Washington formally admonished Gary Tabor — a superior court judge and Church of Christ elder — for voicing his preference not to perform same-sex marriages.
After complaints were filed, Tabor voluntarily stopped officiating all marriages.
“It’s concerning to see public officials face disciplinary action for their religious belief in traditional marriage,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty in Washington, D.C.
When an unidentified source leaked Tabor’s concern to the media, the story made statewide headlines.
According to the judicial commission’s official report, Tabor “reasoned that since judges are not required, but are only permitted, to perform marriages, he believed he was within his rights to personally decline to perform same-sex marriages as long as those seeking to have their marriages solemnized had access to another judge without delay.”
However, the judicial authorities determined that by expressing his concerns, Tabor “appeared to express a discriminatory intent against a statutorily protected class of people, thereby undermining public confidence in his impartiality.”
At the same time, the investigation showed that Tabor “has a reputation for being a fair and impartial jurist, and one who is hard-working and well-informed in law,” according to the report.
“I chose not to admit that I engaged in misconduct,” Tabor told the Chronicle, “but I agreed that they could find that my actions raised an appearance-of-fairness issue.”
Of the admonishment, he said, “It still allows me to stand on my principles. I don’t hold any animosity. I’d like to just put it behind me.”
RELIGIOUS LIBERTY VS. GAY RIGHTS?
Mark Johnson, the Olympia church’s preaching minister, describes Tabor as a dedicated Christian and public servant of strong character.
As more states permit gay couples to marry or form civil unions, however, wedding professionals in at least six states have run headlong into state antidiscrimination laws after refusing for religious reasons to bake cakes, arrange flowers or perform other services for same-sex couples, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Lori WindhamLegal fights have been waged in Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Washington state, and some experts think the underlying question — whether free speech and religious rights should allow exceptions to state antidiscrimination law — could ultimately wind its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Journal said.
“In states that don’t recognize same-sex marriage or civil unions, this is less likely to be a problem,” Windham told the Chronicle. “But in states where there are same-sex unions, then some Christian business owners might be at risk.
“This is a developing area of law, so it’s too early to tell how these cases are going to turn out,” added Windham, a member of the Fairfax Church of Christ in Virginia and a graduate of Abilene Christian University in Texas. “I am hopeful that courts and state legislatures will strike a balance between marriage laws and religious freedom.”
REQUIRED TO FOLLOW THE LAW
A 1968 graduate of Oklahoma Christian University, Tabor was first elected as a superior court judge in 1996 — after 19 years as a deputy prosecuting attorney.
Along with Thurston County’s other seven judges, he had been on a rotation to perform marriages every eight weeks.
Tabor said he understands completely that a judge must enforce the law.
He noted that he regularly instructs juries that they must decide cases based on the evidence presented and follow the law even if they disagree with it.
Subscribe today to receive more inspiring articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox twice a month.
Your donation helps us not only keep our quality of journalism high, but helps us continue to reach more people in the Churches of Christ community.