At a time when some clerks are refusing to perform gay weddings and San Francisco officials are frantically training city workers to help with them, one appellate justice says he has no problem with officiating at gay weddings — even if he could someday rule in a case over the matter.
Justice James Lambden of the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco says he has been asked by close friends to perform their same-sex wedding.
While Lambden, who has not presided over any of the gay marriage litigation so far, has no reason to believe that he’ll be chosen to sit on a panel for it in the future, he says it’s not out of the question. (The case has been remanded back to the First District "for further action consistent" with last month’s Supreme Court opinion.) But the possibility wouldn’t necessarily keep him from officiating at gay weddings now.
“What our oath requires us to do is to put aside our personal feelings with reference to interpretation of the law, and I don’t believe that in my case, my personal feelings would interfere with my ability to rule in this area,” Lambden said. “It’s legal today. If it isn’t legal in the future, it has to be looked at again.”
California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno told the Daily Journal earlier this week that he has agreed to officiate at the same-sex nuptials of Michael Nava, one of his research attorneys.
Ann Donlan, a spokeswoman for San Francisco Superior Court, said a number of judges there have been asked by friends to perform gay weddings, but none have confirmed the fact for Legal Pad.
Several superior court judges interviewed in Alameda, San Francisco and Santa Clara counties said they didn’t have any gay marriages on the agenda and that they typically perform marriages only for those who ask, such as family, friends and the occasional prison-bound defendant who wants a last-minute nuptial.
Despite a personally imposed limit to family and close friends, Lambden says that over the years he has done about 100 weddings — with an average of about a half a dozen a year. He’s recently decided to cut back. “They do take a lot of time,” Lambden said, adding that he’s been recommending that people go through the clerks’ office for a one-day appointment. “I gently say: ‘Why don’t you have grandpa do it?’”
Still, he probably wouldn’t turn down close friends, gay or straight. “I’m not advertising,” he said, but “I would do more.”
— Petra Pasternak & Evan Hill