A Christian judge punished for refusing to perform same-sex marriages is taking her case to the US Supreme Court.
Ruth Neely has been a municipal judge in Wyoming for over 20 years, and also sat as a magistrate with authority to perform weddings.
The Wyoming Commission on Judicial Conduct and Ethics demanded that Judge Neely either agree to carry out same-sex weddings or stop performing any marriages. Wyoming Supreme Court ruled in their favour.
She subsequently lost her magistrate position.
In 2014, Judge Neely stated that her beliefs about marriage meant she would be unable to marry a same-sex couple.
She maintained her stance after same-sex marriage was legalised in the US in 2015.
Even though it recognised that there was “no evidence” that her comments harmed “respect for the judiciary” or “any person”, the court claimed it had to punish Judge Neely to uphold “judicial integrity”.
She is now taking her case to the US Supreme Court and is being represented by religious liberty group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). ADF believe the case “raises a significant free-speech issue”.
Senior lawyer David Cortman pointed out that the state of Wyoming “allows magistrates to decline wedding requests for countless secular reasons” but forbids “Judge Neely from saying that she would need to decline some wedding requests for a religious reason”.
“This unconstitutionally targets religion for disfavored treatment, and that’s why we’re asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear this case”, he added.
In its petition to the Supreme Court, ADF said Wyoming Supreme Court’s decision “poses a broad threat to judges’ expressive freedom, reaching far beyond the circumstances of this case”.
It believes the state’s decision “threatens to punish not just Neely, but also any other judge who expresses conscience-based conflicts involving any issue”.