Toledo Municipal Court Judge refuses to perform same-sex marriag - Toledo News Now, News, Weather, Sports, Toledo, OH

Toledo Municipal Court Judge refuses to perform same-sex marriage

Judge McConnell Judge McConnell
TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) -

On Friday, June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriages are legal across the country. On Monday, however,  a Toledo-area couple alleges that they were denied a marriage ceremony by a Toledo Municipal Court Judge. 

Carolyn Wilson says getting her marriage license from Lucas County Probate Court wasn't an issue.

"We went down to get married, went to the Probate Court, got our license, no problems," she said.  

It was when she and her partner, now spouse, went to Municipal Court to be officially married by the Duty Judge.  

"While we were waiting, the bailiff came out and asked to speak to us in the hallway. We were told at that time that Judge McConnell didn't do this type of wedding and we would have to go somewhere else," said Wilson. "She said he doesn't perform these type of marriages and that was left to interpretation. We didn't follow up; we made assumptions that it was based on same-sex."

Wilson says they specifically sought a public official to perform the marriage instead of a religious officiate.  

"We took great precaution not to offend a minister, that's why we went to a judge to get married, never dreaming that he couldn't follow the law. That he wouldn't follow the law," she said.  

That's when another Judge, Judge Connolly, was asked to perform the marriage, which he did.  

Still, Wilson says her wedding day wasn't quite what they were imagining.  

"To go through that experience when it's not pleasant and singles you out at a time in your life when you're celebrating the fact that you have the same right as everyone else, it's just not good. I don't want anyone else to go through it," she said.  

Equality Toledo Executive Director Nick Komives says the incident goes against court rules, as the Toledo Municipal Court Duty Judge is required to perform marriage ceremonies between designated times.  

Rule number three of the Toledo Municipal Court states that the Duty Judge will perform marriage ceremonies between 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. upon payment of the fee to the clerk of court, which was paid in this instance.  

"The reality is these couples found out a little over a week ago that they're constitutionally protected to have the freedom to marry. This couple went to the courthouse to get married and they were turned away from having that opportunity and it's obviously not constitutional, it's wrong. We really want to make sure that this doesn't happen again for another couple," he said.  

Rob Salem, Clinical Law Professor at the University of Toledo, says that legally, judges do not have discretion to discriminate against performing marriages like religious clergy do. Salem says Judge McConnell is violating the oath of office he made to apply the law fairly to all people. 

 Komives says he wasn't expecting this to happen in Toledo. 

"I'm confident that this will be rectified and this won't occur again, because Toledo has historically been welcoming and open to LGBT people and we're hoping that that continues going forward," he said.  

Equality Toledo will assure that the couple is aware of the available legal options and if they choose to file any grievances it will provide the support necessary.  

For Wilson, an apology would be adequate, but she says the most important thing is that this doesn't happen again.  

"I don't want anyone else to go through it. I don't know what has to happen down with municipal judges or with Judge McConnell, but no one should have to experience that when it's the law of the land. I'm entitled to get married just like anyone else," said Wilson.  

Judge Connolly confirms that he did perform Carolyn Wilson's same-sex marriage on Monday. Calls to Judge McConnell have not yet been returned for

Statement from Lucas County Democratic Party:

"The Lucas County Democratic Party is disappointed to learn of Judge Allen C. McConnell’s refusal, for whatever reason, to perform the marriage of Ms. Wilson and her wife yesterday at Toledo Municipal Court.  The Lucas County Democratic Party strongly supports the fundamental right of same sex couples to marry, just as the United States Supreme Court has held.  Notwithstanding Judge McConnell’s long history of service to this community, it is disappointing that Ms. Wilson and her wife were delayed in their exercise of this right by Judge McConnell.  The Lucas County Democratic Party congratulates Ms. Wilson and her wife on their marriage and wishes them a lifetime of happiness."

Statement from Supreme Court of Ohio: 

"Ohio judges are independently elected officeholders. Every judge is governed by the Code of Judicial Conduct, the laws of the United States and State of Ohio, the Constitution of the United States and the State of Ohio and the Rules of Superintendence for the Courts of Ohio. When there is a disagreement by a party as to the judge’s legal ruling, an appeal may be taken to a higher court. When there is an allegation that a judge has violated an ethical obligation, a complaint must be filed and the matter reviewed by the Board of Professional Conduct.  If merit has been found the matter is then sent to the Supreme Court for final determination.

The Judicial College as well as other institutions provide education to judges about new case law, statute changes, best practices, etc.  The topic of a municipal court judge’s statutory powers and duties have been addressed in previous educational opportunities and will continue to be addressed, particularly in light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell case."

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