The Corner

Wrongthink in Wyoming — Opposition to Gay Marriage May Cost a Judge Her Job

Conscription into the sexual revolution continues. In Wyoming, the state supreme court is now set to consider whether a municipal judge should be tossed from office merely for stating that she would not officiate at same-sex weddings. Here’s the Associated Press’s summary of the case:

The Wyoming Commission on Judicial Conduct and Ethics is recommending the court remove Municipal Judge and Circuit Court Magistrate Ruth Neely of Pinedale. The commission started investigating Neely after she told a reporter in 2014 she would not perform same-sex marriages because of her religious beliefs . . . Neely is fighting removal, arguing she has a constitutional right to voice her opinion. Her lawyers have said no same-sex couples have asked her to preside over their weddings.

In a similar case, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, a born-again Christian, was jailed briefly last year after she refused to allow her office to issue marriage licenses, igniting a national debate over religious freedom and civil rights. Davis ultimately altered the licenses to remove her name and title.

The AP is wrong. This case is not similar to Davis’s. In her capacity as a municipal judge, Neely doesn’t have the authority to officiate in weddings. In her capacity as a circuit court magistrate, she is not required to solemnize weddings. There are no “victims” in this case. There is only thoughtcrime.

The entire proceeding is apparently the result of one reporter’s desire to purge the bench of a Christian judge — a purge eagerly taken up by Wyoming’s Commission on Judicial Conduct and Ethics. In its beneficence, however, it reportedly promised to drop its investigation if Neely submitted to public, ritual humiliation:

Early in these proceedings, the Commission’s attorney told Judge Neely that the Commission would forego its prosecution if she would agree to resign both of her judicial positions, never again seek judicial office in Wyoming, admit wrongdoing, and allow the Commission to publicly state that she had decided to resign in response to a charge of judicial misconduct.

The Commission claims that Neely refuses to “follow the law,” but the law does not require her to marry anyone. A judge could be fairly said to defy the law if he or she refused to recognize the existence of a same-sex marriage in, for example, divorce, probate, or child custody matters – but indicating that a public official will choose to exercise their discretionary functions in a manner that comports with their conscience is not a refusal to follow the law. Rather, it’s an exercise of long-protected fundamental constitutional rights. 

But that’s not all. Incredibly, the Commission allegedly claimed that Neely violated the code of conduct by retaining conservative counsel:

[N]otably, during discovery in this case, the Commission amended its Notice to claim that Judge Neely violated additional Code provisions simpiy by her “engagement of’ and “affiliation with” a religious, pro-bono, public-interest legal organization that “actively” promotes marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The Commission went further, alleging that Judge Neely’s mere association with a religious legal organization that holds and expresses her religious beliefs about marriage “precludes her from discharging the obligations of [the Code]” or remaining in either of her judicial positions. (Citations omitted)

Astonishing. Neely’s brief also contains evidence that the Commission’s attorneys called her religious beliefs “repugnant” and argued that a person with her “type” of beliefs “cannot remain in office.”

I would respond by noting that if the Commission’s reasoning applied to other forms of deeply-held beliefs, then the landscape would be littered with former judges, but everyone knows that when it comes to enforcing the new sexual orthodoxy, entities like the Commission are only concerned with one kind of consistency — Christians lose.


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