October 2017 Church & State - October 2016

Wyo. Judge Seeks Right To Discriminate

  AU admin

A Wyoming judge has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider whether she has the right to refuse to marry same-sex couples due to her religious beliefs.

Represented by the Religious Right legal group Alliance Defending Freedom in the case, Neely v. Wyoming Commission on Judicial Conduct and Ethics, Judge Ruth Neely filed a petition in August asking the high court to review her case after the Wyoming Sup­reme Court publicly censured her earlier this year.

Neely said in a December 2014 interview with the Pinedale Roundup that she wouldn’t perform a same-sex wedding ceremony, insisting that “when law and religion conflict, choices have to be made.” About six months later, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in Oberge­­fell v. Hodges, which extended marriage equality nationwide.

This led Wyoming’s Commission on Judicial Conduct and Ethics to investigate Neely’s comments. The Com­mis­sion recommended that she be removed from her position because her public comments revealed bias against same-sex couples. Neely appealed to the Wyo­ming Supreme Court, and in a 3-2 decision, the state’s highest court ruled that Neely had violated three rules of the Wyoming Code of Judicial Conduct that are designed to promote fairness and prevent bias in the legal system. 

The court, however, censured Neely rather than remove her from her position. It also ordered her to perform all marriage ceremonies equally or perform none. 

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