Metro Weekly

Parker and Prosecution

Lesbian judge declines straight marriages, while Massachusetts lesbians face gay hate charge

Lesbian Judge Won’t Marry Opposite-Sex Couples

A Dallas County, Texas, judge has announced in February that she will no longer provide marriage licenses to heterosexual couples until same-sex marriage is legal in the state. Judge Tonya Parker is the first out lesbian African-American elected official in Texas.

“I use it as my opportunity to give them a lesson about marriage equality in the state because I feel like I have to tell them why I’m turning them away,” she told the New York Daily News. “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.”’

Civil district court judges are not required to perform marriages in the Lone Star State, but can do so under Family Code.

Despite her decision, Parker said, ”I do not, and would never, impede any person’s right to get married. In fact, when people wander into my courtroom … I direct them to the judges in the courthouse who do perform marriage ceremonies. I do this because I believe in the right of people to marry and pursue happiness.”

Lesbians Arraigned on Gay Hate Crime Charges

Three lesbians were arraigned on hate-crimes charges Feb. 24 after a gay man accused them of assaulting him at a Boston transit station, the Boston Herald reports. The unidentified victim claims that Lydia Sanford, Erika Stroud and Felicia Stroud used anti-gay epithets while beating him after he grazed one of them with his backpack.

Massachusetts law allows for enhanced penalties for crimes perpetrated due to a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Not all Bostonians, however, agree on the issue.

”My guess is that no sane jury would convict them under those circumstances, but what this really demonstrates is the idiocy of the hate-crime legislation,” said Harvey Silverglate, an attorney associated with the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. ”The idea of trying to break down human beings into categories is doomed to failure.”

Sarah Wuncsh, an ACLU staff attorney, countered, ”The mere fact that someone is a member of the same class doesn’t mean they could not be motivated by hatred for their very own group.”

The Herald reported that prosecutor Lindsey Weinstein said the two sisters and one of their domestic partners, Lydia Sanford, ”viciously beat the man, … repeatedly punching and kicking him after he bumped them with his backpack on a stairwell.”

The victim told the police that the attack was motivated ”because of his sexual orientation.” But C. Harold Krasnow, one of the women’s attorneys, said, ”They don’t know what his sexual orientation is, just like he doesn’t know what theirs is.”

Prosecutors say they can prove that a hate crime was committed. ”The defendants’ particular orientation or alleged orientations have no bearing on our ability to prosecute for allegedly targeting a person who they believe to be different from them,” Jake Wark, a spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley told the Herald.