Refusal To Perform Same-Sex Marriages, Wyoming Magistrate Censured, But Not Removed
Mar 14, 2017 01:44 PM EDT
A Wyoming magistrate was publicly censored by the state supreme court on Tuesday. Magistrate Ruth Neely told a reporter in 2014 that her religious beliefs prevent her from presiding over same-sex marriages.
The state supreme court did not correspond to the recommendation of Wyoming Commission on Judicial Conduct and Ethics, that proposed Ruth Neely to be removed from her job due to disallowance of same-sex marriages, the Associated Press reported. Instead, the majority voted that she should not be removed from the bench as it would "unnecessarily circumscribe protected expression."
Justice Kate Fox who wrote for the majority asserted that the same-sex marriages case is also not about imposing a religious test on judges. "It is about maintaining the public's faith in an independent and impartial judiciary that conducts its judicial functions according to the rule of law, independent of outside influences, including religion, and without regard to whether a law is popular or unpopular," she said.
The writing highlights that Neely has never been asked to perform same-sex marriages. According to Justice Keith Kautz, Wyoming law does not require judges and magistrates to perform marriage and implies that couples who are seeking marriage have no right to insist on a particular official as the officiant of their wedding.
Neely works as a part-time circuit court magistrate in Sublette County and as a municipal judge in Pinedale, where her magistrate work mostly involves performing marriages, according to IndaLaw. The state supreme court left it to the local circuit court judge who appointed her as a magistrate, to decide if Neely could "continue to serve the essential functions of that position" especially after meting out against same-sex marriages.
James Campbell, an attorney with the religious advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom, represents Neely in the same-sex marriages dilemma and affirms that she plans to continue with her work. He said that Judge Neely may remain in her judicial positions, as the Wyoming Supreme Court has recognized her honorable beliefs about marriage and the fact that her beliefs do not disqualify her from serving her community as a judge.