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Judge Who Wouldn't Marry Same-Sex Couples Slapped With Huge Penalty

Judge Vance Day
Judge Vance Day

Oregon judge Vance Day was suspended without pay for three years.

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A Oregon judge who refused to marry same-sex couples has received the longest suspension in the state's history.

Marion County Circuit Court Judge Vance Day showed prejudice against same-sex couples by refusing to perform their marriages, and he ordered his staff to keep the public from finding out about this, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled Thursday in suspending Day for three years for ethics violations, The Oregonian reports.

An even more serious charge against Day, according to the court, was that he allowed a convicted felon who was on probation to handle a gun, in violation of state law, and lied about this, saying he didn't know the man was a felon. The court further found that Day made a false claim of being assaulted by a referee at his son's soccer game.

"We conclude that a lengthy suspension is required, to preserve public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary," the justices wrote. Day will not be paid and won't be allowed to run for reelection during that time.

That's not the worst penalty Day could have faced, though. The Oregon Commission on Judicial Fitness and Disability recommended in 2016 that he be removed from office permanently, a punishment given to only two judges in the state's history.

The commission issued a "scathing report" on Day that year, The Oregonian notes. The commission found that after same-sex marriage became legal in the state in 2014, Day instructed his staff to investigate whether couples seeking to schedule marriages were gay, and if they were, to tell them he was unavailable and that they should call another judge.

Day said performing same-sex marriages went against his Christian beliefs, and he claimed that he was being persecuted for exercising his religious freedom. Actually, the commission had already been investigating him for other reasons.

One of them was allowing a man on probation for a felony drunk driving charge to handle a gun and teach Day's son to shoot it, according to the commission's report. The incidents reportedly occurred in late 2013 and early 2014. Day faces criminal charges as well as the ethics violations charge regarding these incidents; he has maintained his innocence but will be tried on the criminal charges in April, The Oregonian reports.

The judge also reportedly sought a friendship with another felon because the man had been a Navy SEAL, even though the man didn't want a personal relationship with Day. And he used his position as a judge in an attempt to intimidate a referee at his son's soccer game. The official had made a call Day disagreed with, and the judge shoved his judicial business card at him. Day later claimed the referee had assaulted him.

Another finding was that Day displayed a collage featuring an image of Adolf Hitler as part of a "Hall of Heroes" art exhibit in the Marion County Courthouse. The collage included photos of American soldiers in World War II as well as the Hitler image, and Day's lawyer contended the artwork was intended not to honor Hitler but rather to honor the soldiers who brought down his regime. However, when the county's presiding judge asked Day to take it down, he told her, "Some very influential people in this town want it up." He did eventually remove the artwork, but he was reimbursed for what he spent having it matted.

Day has been a lawyer in Oregon since 1991 and was appointed to the Marion County Circuit Court, located in the state capital, Salem, to fill a vacancy in 2011, then was elected to a six-year term on the court the following year. He hasn't heard cases since November 2016, when he was arraigned on the criminal charges.

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.