DALLAS (CN) – A gay Texas judge said she will not perform marriage ceremonies in her court until gay couples can legally marry in the state.
Judge Tonya Parker of the 116th Civil District Court talked about her decision during last week’s meeting of the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.
“I have the power, of course, to perform marriage ceremonies,” Parker said. “I don’t [perform them.”
In the first year of her term, Parker spoke to the group about progress she has made in what she called “the worst district court at the courthouse.” The 116th Civil District Court had the biggest case backlog of the 13 district courts in Dallas County, according to the Dallas Voice, a weekly and online newspaper service the gay community.
Speaking about “pregnant” and “desperate” teenage couples who want the court to marry them quickly, Parker told the Voice she refuses to marry them and refers them to other judges.
“I use it as my opportunity to give them a lesson about marriage inequality in this state because I feel like I have to tell them why I’m turning them away,” Parker said. “So I usually will offer them something along the lines of ‘I’m sorry. I don’t perform marriage ceremonies because we are in a state that does not have marriage equality, and until it does, I am not going to partially apply the law to one group of people that doesn’t apply to another group of people.'”
Parker said that it would be “kind of oxymoronic” for her to perform marriage ceremonies that cannot be performed for her.
Parker told the Voice her decision was about equality.
“I do not perform them because it is not an equal application of the law. Period,” she said.
Parker told the Stonewall Democrats that she tries to make members of the LGBT community feel comfortable and equal in her courtroom by “going out of my way to do things that other people might not do because they are not who I am.”
She recalled an instance when she refused to allow a prosecutor to use the terms “child molester” and “homosexual” interchangeably in her courtroom, to refer to a man accused of sexually assaulting a boy. She said the term “heterosexual” would not be used in place of “child molester” in cases where a man is accused of assaulting a girl.
Parker also said regarding the Texas Supreme Court’s directions that instruct jurors not to discuss cases with their husband or wife, she modified the words to include “partner” instead of husband or wife.
“What I want to do is 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 and in that I have reflected to them that I have respect for them.”
Parker is the first lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered person elected judge in the county and is believed to be the first openly gay and black elected official in the state’s history, the Voice reported.