There are many things that we say we will and will not do. One problem is, sometimes, people are listening. Does our job or title dictate some of those words that come out of our mouth as being inflammatory or career threatening? One judges words from December 2014 have been having her job in question.
The two spoke for more than 20 minutes, reporter Ned Donovan told The Daily Signal, and then he asked the town judge whether she was “excited” about the prospect of solemnizing same-sex marriages.
“I will not able to do them,” Neely replied, according to the story Donovan later wrote. “We have at least one magistrate who will do same-sex marriages, but I will not be able to.”
Neely cited her religious belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.
The result of the interview Dec. 5, 2014, was a relatively short newspaper story, but it sparked an investigation of Neely’s fitness for office. A year and a half later, she is asking the Wyoming Supreme Court not to remove her from two separate judgeships—nor to enforce a fine of up to $40,000. – dailysignal.com
That was the interview that started it all. The Wyoming Commission on Judicial Conduct and Ethics reportedly accused Judge Ruth Neely of violating six rules of judicial conduct, including prejudice based on sexual orientation, acting improperly and refusing to uphold the rule of law.
What is her defense?
In defending the judge, the Alliance Defending Freedom is relying, in part, on text found in Article 1, Section 18 of the Wyoming state constitution — provisions that govern religious freedom in the state. It’s a portion of the constitution that proclaims that religious beliefs do not make one ineligible to hold public office.
“The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship without discrimination or preference shall be forever guaranteed in this state, and no person shall be rendered incompetent to hold any office of trust or profit, or to serve as a witness or juror because of his opinion on any matter of religious belief whatever,” the text reads. “But the liberty of conscience hereby secured shall not be so construed as to excuse acts of licentiousness or justify practices inconsistent with the peace or safety of the state.” – theblaze.com May 2016
Most sites do not have Neely actually refusing to marry any same-sex couples since none have approached her. Conservative websites have this marked as a freedom of speech case where she is saying she will not marry any such couple, so therefore she is being examined and possibly fired because of what she has said she will not do. For an interesting correlation, head over to americanthinker.com
How does this relate to some cases in the past where elected or appointed government officials have spoken up against marriage equality?
Unlike in the case of officials like Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis, who refused to give out marriage licenses, judges are tasked with performing the union. There is no “deputy” in their case that can step in. Yet, despite making the “deputies can do it” argument, Kim Davis was still held in contempt of court, and a federal judge declared that contempt still holds today.
A similar case was just decided in Alabama, where anti-LGBT Judge Roy Moore was suspended by his state’s Supreme Court for also denying to perform same-sex marriages and encouraging other judges to also refuse to do so. – rawstory.com
But was it Judge Neely's job to perform marriages? There seems to be a little bit of disagreement there.
“Because Judge Neely’s ability to perform marriages was entirely optional, nobody was going to be denied any civil marriage, which means the only victims here are an honorable judge, freedom of conscience, and tolerance for dissent,” Roger Severino, director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal.
Neely and her attorney asked the state Supreme Court to reject the Commission’s suggestions and requests, but Friday, August 12, 2016, the Wyoming Supreme Court agreed that the case will be heard, according to the Associated Press.
What are your thoughts?
If performing weddings were truly optional and she doesn't want to do them, does it matter her excuse?
Or is this separation of church and state and she needs to perform same-sex marriages if asked?
Do you think she should be removed?