Texas Judge Tonya Parker cannot legally marry a woman in her state, so she refuses to perform any marriage ceremonies until there is equality. She finds it “oxymoronic” to perform a ceremony that cannot be performed for her.
Parker, an openly gay judge, told a group at a Stonewall Democrats of Dallas meeting Tuesday that when she turns a couple away, she uses it as an opportunity to teach them a lesson about marriage equality.
“I don’t perform marriage ceremonies because we are in a state that does not have marriage equality and until it does, I’m not going to partially apply the law to one group of people that doesn’t apply to another group of people,” Parker said in a video of the Tuesday discussion. “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.”
A spokeswoman for the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct said the commission had no comment.
Parker is the first LGBT person elected as a judge in Dallas County and she is believed to be the first openly LGBT African-American elected official in the state’s history, according to the Dallas Voice.
Parker described examples of discrimination in the courtroom that she has seen and been able to stop.
She once heard a case involving a man who allegedly molested a young boy in which a participant used the terms “homosexual” and “child molester” interchangeably.
“When a man molests a little girl, people don’t call him heterosexual,” Parker said in the video. “So, when this man molests this little boy, assuming [the] allegations to be true, you are not going to stand in my courtroom and call him a homosexual.”
Another example she gave was the Texas Supreme Court’s jury instruction that dictates that jurors cannot discuss cases with their husbands or wives.
“Well, I might have modified it a little bit,” Parker said to her audience. “And I said, ‘Do not discuss this case with your husband, your wife or your partner.'”
She said these are small ways of making her point but she believes it is important to go out of her way to do things that others in the LGBT community might not be able to do because they are not in her position of power.
“I want to help those folks to have dignity, in that moment that they are with me, to know that I see you,” she said. “I see you.”
Parker wrote in an emailed statement that performing marriage ceremonies is not her duty as a judge, but, rather, “a right and privilege” that she chooses not to exercise.
“I do not, and would never, impede any person’s right to get married,” Parker wrote. “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.
“I do this because I believe in the right of people to marry and pursue happiness,” she wrote.
Parker has said in the video that her goal as a judge is to “make sure laws are applied equally to everyone who comes to court and that we take the opportunity to put issues on people’s radar’s that might not otherwise be there.”
Seven states allow gay marriage and Maryland would become next one if the governor signs recently passed bill, as he has promised to do next week.