West Virginia Judge Let Off With Warning After Refusing to Marry Same-Sex Couples

A judge in West Virginia who refuses to marry same-sex couples was let off with a warning and was allowed to continue his position, according to Charleston Gazette-Mail.

An elected official breaking the law by refusing marriage licenses to a certain group of people? That sounds awfully familiar…

Unlike Ms. Davis, who served a whole six days in jail because she was found in contempt of court for denying same-sex couples the right to marry in Kentucky, Mineral Circuit Judge Lynn Nelson of West Virginia just got a slap on the wrist. 

West Virginia LGBTQ group Fairness West Virginia conducted a phone survey in which they asked several circuit judges questions pertaining to marriage. Most judges had no problem with marrying same-sex couples, but Judge Nelson openly admitted that he discriminated against them by refusing to marry them. 

Fairness West Virginia contacted Judge Nelson's judicial office and the clerk there confirmed that he does indeed only marry heterosexual couples. Despite this technically being contempt of court (the same thing that Kim Davis was charged with in 2015), the West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission ethical violations of the Judicial Code of Conduct after a complaint was filed. 

After the complaint, Judge Nelson stopped performing marriages altogether, so as to avoid giving equal treatment to same-sex couples. He cites religious belief as his reason for the refusal, saying “I’ve allowed same-sex couples to adopt children in my courtroom. I’ve given them their children back in abuse and neglect cases. On divorce appeals, I’ve handled them just like everybody else, but I’m just not interested in getting them married. The Supreme Court told me I didn’t have to marry anyone I didn’t want to.”

Judge Nelson is not the only judge to not perform marriages for anyone, as judges in Ritchie, Wood, Wayne, or Gilmer counties are also against same-sex couples marrying, and, as such, do not perform marriages regardless of one's sexual orientation. 

Fairness West Virginia created an LGBTQ+ wedding guide that lists ordained officials that will perform same-sex weddings, as well as DJs, caterers, bakers, and others that will serve or perform at weddings regardless of the couples' sexual orientation. 

Judges and the judicial system, in general, are supposed to be impartial so that the process of passing legislation can be democratic. However, by refusing to marry same-sex couples, Judge Nelson and the judges who share the same mindset are clearly displaying their prejudice, and, in my opinion, do not deserve the position of judge. Yes, I recognize that everyone has their bias, but judges should be able to put theirs on hold when it comes to the civil rights of people. 

h/t: Charleston Gazette-Mail, Fairness West Virginia

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