Suggested changes regarding language on "sexual orientation” in the state's Code of Judicial Conduct are inconsistent with the beliefs of Oklahomans, according to an Oklahoma County judge. "These policies are not based on laws enacted by Congress or the State Legislature, but on proposals of the liberal, pro-homosexual American Bar Association,” District Judge Bill Graves wrote in a letter dated April 8 to Oklahoma Bar Association members. Graves accused an Oklahoma Bar Association committee of promoting the homosexual agenda because it proposes offering additional protection based on "sexual orientation.” In the letter, Graves stated the current code of conduct already prohibits discrimination on that basis, but the new proposal could forbid judges from refusing to award children in custody and adoption cases because a person is homosexual. "Studies have shown that is detrimental to children,” he wrote, adding that such issues should be determined by the Legislature. Arizona attorney Mark Harrison, who headed the American Bar Association committee that came up with the model code of conduct, denied Graves' suggestion the group is trying to advance an agenda. He said the anti-discrimination provision won unanimous support from a diverse group of judges, lawyers and academics. Graves contends the proposal also would prevent judges from being members of groups that discriminate based on "race, sex, gender, religion, national origin, ethnicity or sexual orientation.” He also objected to the addition of "gender” and "ethnicity,” but his biggest complaint was "sexual orientation.” "Sexual orientation” would protect pedophiles, polygamists and homosexuals who practice anal sodomy, defined in state law as "the detestable and abominable crime against nature,” the judge wrote. "Since homosexual groups cannot succeed in persuading the Legislature to provide such protection, they are making an end run around the constitutional lawmaking processes,” Graves wrote. He noted Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly voted to ban same-sex marriage in 2004. "Obviously the people of Oklahoma do not subscribe to the homosexual agenda,” the judge wrote. Graves, who spent 24 years as a state lawmaker before being elected to the bench in November 2006, declined to discuss his complaints about the proposed code of conduct for judges with The Oklahoman. The national lawyers group provided the model for Oklahoma's revised code of conduct for judges, said John Morris Williams, executive director of the Oklahoma Bar Association. "Certainly, it's not the finished product,” Williams said. "It could change dramatically.” Any changes to Oklahoma's conduct rules for judges must be approved by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, which passed the original code of conduct in 1974. Williams acknowledged the proposal has drawn some complaints, with some critics invited to testify before the committee. Attorney Kevin Calvey, a former state representative, said he spoke to the committee in April about what he termed a First Amendment issue. He called the new anti-discrimination measure "by far the worst public policy proposal I've ever seen.” The proposal could be interpreted to include groups like the Boy Scouts, American Legion or Knights of Columbus, Calvey said. Such a rule might dissuade qualified candidates from becoming judges or cause them to avoid certain groups. Oklahoma City University law professor Paula Dalley said the proposal could be problematic under the First Amendment, but it appears any issues would be considered on a case-by-case basis. Calvey said the bar committee seemed receptive to his comments.Comments
Model code•The American Bar Association adopted its model code of judicial conduct in February 2007, but no states have approved a revised code. Oklahoma is one of only seven states to complete a report based on that model.