Although you might think that Wyoming is conservative, it’s actually quite socially liberal. Check out this story from The Stream.
A beloved judge in a whisper of a town in Wyoming faces being thrown off the bench for stating she wouldn’t be able to perform same-sex weddings due to her religious beliefs.
The Wyoming Commission on Judicial Conduct and Ethics is recommending the removal of Municipal Judge and Circuit Court Magistrate Ruth Neely. The Commission also wants her to pay up to $40,000 in fines. This despite the fact Judge Neely is neither required to perform weddings, nor has even been asked to perform a same-sex wedding. Still, in the Commission’s view, by stating her commitment to natural marriage, she has “manifested a bias” and is permanently unfit to serve as a judge.
The troubles for Judge Neely of Pinedale, Wyoming (pop. 2030) began in 2014 after a Federal judge struck down Wyoming’s ban on same-sex marriage. When asked about the decision by a reporter for the local Pinedale Roundup, Judge Neely responded that she wouldn’t be able to perform a same-sex marriage. “When law and religion conflict, choices have to be made,” she said.
The Commission launched a formal investigation in 2015, and according to the Casper Star Tribune, accused Judge Neely of violating six rules of judicial conduct, including prejudice based on sexual orientation, acting improperly and refusing to uphold the rule of law.
According to a brief filed by her attorneys, the Commission first told Judge Neely it wouldn’t prosecute if she would agree to resign, admit wrongdoing and never again seek judicial office in Wyoming. Judge Neely refused.
Then this February, reports the Casper Star Tribune, the Commission told Judge Neely she could stay on the bench if she publicly apologized and agreed to perform same-sex marriages. The judge responded that doing so would violate her religious convictions.
The Commission then filed its recommendation to the Wyoming Supreme Court that Ruth Neely be ousted. According to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which today filed a brief on her behalf, “This would be the first time in the country that a judge was removed from office because of her religious beliefs about marriage.”
The heroic Alliance Defending Freedom has filed a brief in defense of the judge:
In a recently filed brief Judge Neely’s attorneys from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) asked the state Supreme Court to reject the Commission’s recommendation. Among the points argued by the ADF:
The Commission’s actions violate Judge Neely’s constitutional rights to free speech and free exercise of religion.
Judge Neely has discretion when exercising her authority to perform marriages and could refuse to do so for any number of reasons.
Judge Neely has been suspended from her role as magistrate and is not currently performing any marriages.
Any question over her authority to perform marriages has no bearing on her ability to perform her duties as a municipal court judge, of which there is no accusation she has violated any judicial rules.
You would think that at least in Wyoming, that a Christian would be allowed to serve in public office, but actually no. If you are a Christian or a Torah-believing Jew, then you are not allowed to be a judge in Wyoming. It’s not a good place to live for conservatives.