Homophobic Wyoming judge censured but not sacked
In August last year Wyoming’s Judicial Ethics Commission recommended that Ruth Neely, above, be relieved of her position as a magistrate in the small northwestern town of Pinedale after she told the local newspaper that she would ‘not be able to do’ marriage ceremonies for gay couples.
It ruled that she 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 proselytise their religious beliefs as ordinary citizens,” the Commission said, finding that her public statements suggested that:
Adherence to the law is optional.
However, according to this report, the Wyoming Supreme Court this week chose to censure rather than sack the Christian bigot.
In a letter to the state’s judicial ethics advisory committee, she 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.
By a 3-2 vote, the court said Neely violated the state’s code of judicial conduct.
No judge can turn down a request to perform a marriage for reasons that undermine the integrity of the judiciary by demonstrating a lack of independence and impartiality.
The court said she must either “perform marriage ceremonies regardless of the couple’s sexual orientation,” or decline to perform any marriage ceremonies at all.
The state supreme court declined to remove her from her position, based on her long career as a municipal court judge:
For which she is widely respected.
Her misconduct was an isolated response, the court said:
To a quickly changing legal landscape, one in which many judges have experienced similar turmoil.
Firing her would:
Unnecessarily circumscribe protected expression.
Her lawyer, Jim Campbell of the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom, said the court:
Recognised that her honorable beliefs about marriage do not disqualify her from serving her community as a judge, which she has done with distinction for more than two decades.
Earlier in the case, Campbell told the court that she was being unconstitutionally punished for her religious views.