News (USA)

Oregon judge under investigation for refusing to perform same-sex weddings

Oregon judge under investigation for refusing to perform same-sex weddings
Judge Vance Day
Judge Vance Day Facebook

SALEM, Ore. — An Oregon judge under an ethics investigation after refusing to perform same-sex weddings has been accused of several other allegations, including hanging a picture of Adolf Hitler in the courthouse, the commission charged with investigating him announced Tuesday.

Marion County Judge Vance Day said the Hitler portrait was not intended to glorify the Nazi dictator but was part of a display on democracy’s defeat of fascism. Day, a former chairman of the Oregon Republican Party, said he’s being targeted because of his Christian beliefs.

“It appears that the commission has thrown everything in but the kitchen sink,” Day told The Associated Press. “The clear issue that they’re after me on is that I had stopped doing weddings because I have a firmly held religious conviction.”

A spokesman for Day said last week that the judge was being investigated for refusing to perform same-sex marriages but declined to disclose the other allegations against him.

Six allegations were revealed in a press release Tuesday by the Commission on Judicial Fitness and Disability, which investigates complaints against judges and can recommend sanctions.

Day is accused of violating several rules from the Code of Judicial Conduct. They include a requirement that judges “observe high standards of conduct” so that their integrity or independence is preserved and a prohibition on conduct “that reflects adversely on the judge’s character, competence, temperament or fitness to serve as a judge.”

Day is the head of the Veterans Treatment Court, which aims to provide intensive monitoring of veterans to treat drug and alcohol problems as an alternative to jail. Several of the allegations against him stem from his interactions with veterans and displays he placed around his courtroom.

Day said a local doctor serving in World War II cut the portrait of Hitler from a German government building and sent it home. When the doctor died, his son donated memorabilia to the veterans court. The Hitler portrait became part of a collage, surrounded and partially obscured by photographs, medals and the doctor’s diary entries, he said.

It hung outside Day’s courtroom for several weeks last year until the presiding judge said it might be offensive.

“The purpose was to show that these young Americans triumphed over fascism,” Day said.

When a federal court ruling in May 2014 made same-sex marriage legal in Oregon, Day instructed his staff to refer same-sex couples looking to marry to other judges. Later, he decided to stop performing marriages altogether. Day said same-sex marriage violates his religious beliefs.

The compliant, which Day provided to the AP, also alleges he allowed a veteran on multiple occasions to handle guns even though he knew the man had a felony conviction on his record. Oregon law prohibits felons from being in possession of a weapon.

Day is also accused of making false statements to investigators and fellow judges when pressed about the allegations against him.

Day denies he broke ethics rules and says the proceedings against him violate his constitutional rights to free speech, free association and religious expression.

The judicial fitness commission is scheduled to meet in an adversarial hearing, similar to a trial, on Nov. 9 in Salem. A panel of judges, lawyers and members of the public will decide whether sanctions are warranted and make recommendations to the Oregon Supreme Court, which has the final say.

While the judicial fitness commission gets dozens of complaints each year, it’s rare for one to result in a formal disciplinary proceeding. Since 2007, five judges have been referred to the Supreme Court for sanctions, said Susan Isaacs, the commission’s executive director.

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