When the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in 2015, one of the ministers who performs weddings at the Lucas County Courthouse said he could not marry same-sex couples.
The Rev. John Oliver changed his mind when he learned he would no longer be able to work inside the courthouse, but now he is accused of mistreating a same-sex couple who came to him to say their vows.
The two women told a court deputy Aug. 14 that “they didn't feel like they were married because they were told they couldn't exchange vows or exchange rings because it was a non-traditional marriage,” the deputy's report stated.
The couple later returned to the courthouse and met with Trevor Fernandes, assistant chief magistrate in Lucas County Probate Court, who wrote in a report that the couple said Mr. Oliver became irritated when they tried to tell him they wanted to exchange vows and rings.
“Three times he said that what they wanted was basically for 'traditional' marriages only,” Mr. Fernandes wrote. “He was unkind, and one of the ladies left in tears.”
Rather than allowing the women to exchange vows, the report states, Mr. Oliver “asked them if they had a marriage license. He then asked them if they wished to be married and whether they were both consenting to be married. When they said yes, he said, 'By the power vested in me by the state of Ohio, etc., you are legally married.'”
Court Administrator Brian Patrick said the courthouse facility committee plans to meet with Mr. Oliver Monday to discuss the complaint.
“Everybody deserves to be treated the same way we want to be treated,” Mr. Patrick said, adding that he wants to hear Mr. Oliver's side of the story. “The complaint that has been lodged is substantial enough to hold a committee meeting because you cannot treat one segment of the population any different than another.”
Mr. Oliver, who has performed weddings at the courthouse for more than 20 years, referred questions to his attorney, Keith Mitchell.
Mr. Mitchell insisted Mr. Oliver “does not” treat same-sex couples differently. Asked where this complaint came from then, he said, “Some people were not satisfied with, I guess, his wedding performance. They were satisfied when they got married, but afterwards they came back and were dissatisfied.”
The couple could not be reached for comment.
The Rev. Sandra Frost – who performs weddings at the courthouse on alternating weeks as Mr. Oliver – said she does “exactly the same wedding” for all couples, and, if they bring their own vows to recite, she allows them to do that.
“I let them do whatever they want,” she said.
The courthouse facility committee, which oversees the ministers and any other business conducted in the building, consists of Mr. Patrick and Roger Kerner, court security director. The committee voted early in 2015 to stop allowing marriages at the courthouse but reversed itself after the 10 general division judges and the county prosecutor signed a petition asking that the tradition continue.
The two ministers who marry couples at the courthouse are not county employees but work in the courthouse at the discretion of the committee. They collect $25 to perform a wedding.
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