News (USA)

Wyoming judge facing ouster over stance on same-sex marriage

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Some current and former Wyoming lawmakers as well as national religious groups are supporting a municipal judge who faces a dismissal petition before the Wyoming Supreme Court for saying she would not preside over same-sex marriages.

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.

Attempts to reach Neely and her attorneys, including the Alliance Defending Freedom, an Arizona religious advocacy law firm, were not successful Monday.

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.

In a response to the removal petition, Neely’s lawyers stated in a court filing last month that removing her would violate her rights. They quoted a provision of the Wyoming Constitution which prohibits the state from finding a person incompetent to hold public office, “because of his opinion on any matter of religious belief whatever.”

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year in a 5-to-4 decision that same-sex couples nationwide may marry.

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