Metro Weekly

Is a Wyoming judge hoping to be the next Kim Davis?

Judge Ruth Neely refuses to solemnize same-sex marriages, comparing it to enabling an alcoholic

Ruth Neely - Photo: Town of Pinedale.
Ruth Neely – Photo: Town of Pinedale.

A Wyoming judge is demanding to remain on the bench, even though she refuses to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies in the town of Pinedale because of “religious objections.”

The state’s judicial ethics commission has recommended that Ruth Neely be relieved of her position after telling the local newspaper she would “not be able to do” marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples, reports NBC News.

But the ethics commission found Neely had violated ethics rules requiring judges to follow the law, avoid the appearance of impropriety, and perform duties fairly, without bias or prejudice.

“Judges do not enjoy the same freedom to proselytize their religious beliefs as ordinary citizens,” the commission said in a statement. The commission also believed that Neely’s public statements about refusing to wed same-sex couples amounted to a conclusion that “adherence to the law is optional.” As a result, she should not be allowed to remain a municipal court judge.

But Neely’s lawyers, from the conservative group Alliance Defending Freedom, argue she is being unfairly punished for her religious beliefs, adding that the commission has adopted “an extreme position.”

“[The commission] claims that because Judge Neely’s religious beliefs prevent her from solemnizing same-sex marriage, she cannot be a judge in Wyoming, even in a position that does not have authority to perform marriages,” one of her lawyers said.

Neely has also said that she would treat all gay and lesbian people in her courtroom fairly, and would refer any same-sex couple wishing to get married to another magistrate who would be willing to perform the ceremony.

In a letter to the state’s judicial ethics advisory committee, Neely wrote: “Homosexuality is a named sin in the Bible, as are drunkenness, thievery, lying, and the like. I can no more officiate at a same-sex wedding than I can buy beer for the alcoholic.”

The Wyoming Supreme Court is expected to issue a written ruling on whether Neely will remain a judge. For now, she remains on the bench, but has been suspended from her duties as a magistrate until the court rules on her case.

Related: Kim Davis drops appeal over marriage licenses, retreats back into obscurity

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