Forced impartiality? Washington state’s judicial ethics body reprimanded a state judge this week for refusing to officiate same-sex wedding ceremonies. Thurston County Superior Court Judge Gary Tabor originally told a meeting of judges and court personnel he was uncomfortable preforming the ceremonies because of his religious beliefs. Washington voters approved same-sex unions in a referendum late last year. But judges are not required, only permitted, to perform wedding ceremonies, a loophole Tabor thought would allow him to officiate traditional unions and skip the same-sex ceremonies, as long as another judge could be found to perform the duty. After news outlets picked up on the story, Tabor said he would stop performing marriages altogether, to avoid the accusation of bias. But the Judicial Conduct Commission filed a complaint against him anyway, saying his refusal to perform same-sex weddings violated the state’s anti-discrimination law. In response to the complaint, Tabor agreed to sign a formal admonishment in which he agreed his actions “appeared to express a discriminatory intent against a statutorily protected class of people, thereby undermining public confidence in his impartiality.”
Abortion lawsuit. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit today against the state of Ohio over three new pro-life laws approved earlier this year as part of the state’s budget. The provisions eliminate funding from Planned Parenthood, block public hospitals from arranging transfer agreements with abortion centers, and require abortionists to provide ultrasounds to women seeking abortions. The ACLU is challenging the legality of including the restrictions in the budget document, claiming Ohio’s “single-subject” rule requires laws to address only one subject. The budget, ACLU lawyers maintain, should not have been used as a vehicle to pass abortion restrictions. Ohio has 12 abortion facilities, several of which said they would be forced to close under the new laws. The case likely will end up at Ohio’s Supreme Court.
Too much screen time. Commuters in San Francisco missed an opportunity to stop a murder because they were too absorbed in their smartphones and tablets. On Sept. 23, security footage shows light rail passenger Nikhom Thephakaysone, 30, take a gun out of his pocket and point it across the aisle. He repeated the action several times, and no one around him noticed. They were all too absorbed by their electronics. The other passengers finally looked up when Thephakaysone fired the .45 caliber handgun, hitting 20-year-old San Francisco State University student Justin Valdez in the back. Prosecutors say Thephakaysone was “hunting” for a victim and picked Valdez at random. While any one of them could have been the one to get shot, the other passengers were oblivious to the danger.
Last respects. Italy will hold a state funeral for hundreds of African migrants killed last week when their boat caught fire and sank as they neared their destination. About 500 men, women, and children from Eritrea and Somalia packed the rickety vessel. Only 155 survived, and divers have so far recovered 302 bodies. The accident prompted Italian officials to call for a unified European strategy to deal with the flood of migrants coming from North Africa. During a visit to the island of Lampedusa, where the bodies are being brought to shore, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso pledged $40 million to help migrants who end up on Italian shores.