Oregon Judge Refuses to Perform Same-Sex Marriages
By Bryan Denson
Marion County Circuit Judge Vance Day, a former chairman of the Oregon Republican Party, took steps Thursday to create a legal defense fund in an apparent response to his decision not to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.
Day took action because of what he described as "deeply-held religious beliefs," KGW reported.
"It's an exercise of his religious freedom rights under the First Amendment," Day spokesman Patrick Korten told the news station.
In recent months, Day has not performed any marriage ceremonies, KGW reported. His courtroom is in Salem.
The Oregon Government Ethics Commission voted unanimously Thursday to approve Day's request to establish a legal defense fund.
Day noted in an affidavit signed Aug. 19 that he was seeking to establish the fund to defray legal expenses in connection with inquiries by the Oregon Commission on Judicial Fitness and Disability involving allegations of violations of the Oregon Code of Judicial Conduct and the Oregon Constitution.
"These legal expenses arose by virtue of, and were related to, my service as an Oregon Circuit Judge," Day wrote in the affidavit.
He acknowledged in the affidavit that he is bound by provisions of state law that spell out the establishment, administration and termination of legal expense trusts.
State law allows public officials to set up such trusts to collect money for their legal defense in a variety of circumstances, including investigations brought by public bodies.
It was not immediately clear whether Day was under investigation.
Oregon law allows a wide range of officiants at marriage ceremonies. Among those allowed to conduct such proceedings, known in legal parlance as "solemnizing" the marriage, are state judges, federal judges (including magistrates), court clerks and religious congregations.
The judge didn't return messages from The Oregonian/OregonLive for comment.
The Marion Circuit Court website lists six judges available to perform weddings: four Circuit judges among the current roster of 14, one retired Circuit judge and a Municipal Court judge.
It also includes this disclaimer: "This list is informational only and does not guarantee that a particular judge will be available to perform any particular wedding ceremony."
(c)2015 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)