Dallas County Judge Tonya Parker says she won’t perform marriage ceremonies until gay couples can wed.
During a Feb. 21 meeting, Parker told the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas that while she has the power to perform legal marriage ceremonies in her court, she will not.
“I use it as my opportunity to give them a lesson about marriage inequality in this state because I feel like I have to tell them why I’m turning them away,” Parker said. “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.’ And 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.”
“I do not perform [marriages] because it is not an equal application of the law. Period,” Parker told the Dallas Voice.
Though she chooses not to perform the ceremonies, Parker said she passes marriage ceremonies on to other judges so they can be completed.
Update: Judge Parker released the following statement to the media on Thursday afternoon.
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.
I do not, and would never, impede any person’s right to get married. In fact, when people wander into my courtroom, usually while I am presiding over other matters, I direct them to the Judges in the courthouse who do perform marriage ceremonies. If my deputy is not busy, I will even ask him to escort or help these individuals find another Judge who performs the ceremonies. I do this because I believe in the right of people to marry and pursue happiness.
During the meeting, Parker also mentioned other steps she takes to promote equality for gay, lesbian, and transgender issues, including adding the word “partner” to the list of people the jury is not supposed to communicate about the ongoing case with and admonishing an attorney who used the terms “child molester” and “homosexual” interchangeably.
Parker was elected in 2010 and is the first openly gay woman to be elected as a county judge in Dallas.