ABA: judges may not refuse to perform same-sex marriages

ABA: judges may not refuse to perform same-sex marriages

The American Bar Association issued Formal Opinion 485 Thursday, which states that judges who perform marriages as a “mandatory obligation of judicial office may not decline to perform marriages of same-sex couples.”

The opinion comes after the 2015 Supreme Court decision, which held that states are not allowed to refuse “to license marriages between individuals of the same sex.” The Model Rules of Professional Conduct require judges to comply with and apply the law, and to do so “fairly and impartially,” which means without bias or prejudice. Formal Opinion 485 applies these rules, stating that “a judge’s refusal to perform same-sex marriages while agreeing to perform marriages for opposite-sex couples is improper” under those rules.

Formal Opinion 485 also provides guidance for judges who are not obligated to perform marriages. If a judge is not obligated to perform marriages, the judge may choose to not perform “all marriages for members of the public.” The judge may also choose to perform marriages for family and friends, “so long as the judge does not discriminate between same-sex and opposite-sex couples” when doing so.