After refusing to marry a lesbian couple in Toledo, Ohio, Monday, a municipal judge has clarified that his denial was based on his religion and that he intends to continue refusing to serve same-sex couples unless ordered to do otherwise by the state Supreme Court.
"On Monday, July 6, I declined to marry a nontraditional couple during my duties assignment," said Toledo Municipal Court Judge C. Allen McConnell, according to a statement published by Toledo TV station WTOL. "The declination was based upon my personal and Christian beliefs established over many years. I apologize to the couple for the delay they experienced and wish them the best. The court has implemented a process whereby same-sex marriages will be accommodated. I will continue to perform traditional marriages during my duties assignment.
"I am also seeking advisory opinion from the Supreme Court of Ohio at this time as to whether or not I can opt out of the rotation," wrote the judge. "Upon receipt of the advisory opinion from Supreme Court, I will abide by its decision."
The couple at the center of the controversy, Carolyn Wilson and her new wife, told WTOL they specifically sought out a justice of the peace to solemnize their marriage rather than a religious officiant.
"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," Wilson told the local station. "That he wouldn't follow the law."
Wilson said that Monday, a bailiff from McConnell's courtroom asked to speak to the couple in the hall before they were to be married, telling the women "that Judge McConnell didn't do this type of wedding and we would have to go somewhere else."
"[The bailiff] said he doesn't perform these type of marriages and that was left to interpretation," Wilson said. "We didn't follow up; we made assumptions that it was based on same-sex."
Although another municipal judge stepped in to perform the ceremony, Wilson said McConnell's refusal sullied what she had expected would be a joyous day. The newlyweds turned to local media in hopes that other same-sex couples would not suffer the same "not pleasant" experience. Wilson pointed to the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark ruling last month that brought legal marriage equality to all 50 states as proof that "I'm entitled to get married just like anyone else."
Indeed, WTOL notes that existing municipal court rules state that "the duty judge will perform marriage ceremonies between 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. upon payment of the $15 fee to the clerk of court," which Wilson and her partner paid.
Although the initial motivation for McConnell's refusal was vague, his subsequent statement not only makes clear the religious motivation for his abdication of duty, but also indicates that he plans to continue seeking some sort of "religious exemption" from performing the duties required by his title.
Watch WTOL's initial report on the incident below.