The so-called Alliance Defending Freedom (i.e., discrimination) has struck again with another frivolous appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. This time, they’ve picked a terrible case. They’re arguing that judges should have the right to express their religious views publicly.
In October 2014, the Wyoming Supreme Court declared that Wyoming had to issue a marriage license to same-sex couples. A couple months later, local Wyoming judge Ruth Neely was hanging Christmas tree lights (an attempt to make her a sympathetic plaintiff) when she received a call from a reporter asking her if she would conduct same-sex weddings. Judge Neely advertised in the local paper that she was available to officiate at weddings, and that “Fees are based on time and location. Arrangements can be made by contacting the judge directly.”
The reporter made clear that he was asking Judge Neely on the record in preparation of an article for the local paper.
“Will you perform same-sex weddings? ” the reporter asked.
Instead of politely declining to comment, Judge Neely replied, “When law and religion conflict, choices have to be made.”
Choices have to be made? Yes! Follow the law. Put your religious beliefs second. And if you don’t like that, you shouldn’t be a judge.
Now that Judge Neely is on the record about same-sex relationships, what LGBT person would feel comfortable in her courtroom after that pronouncement? Bye-bye, judicial equality. And if a gay person ever found his way into her court and lost? Then hello appeals court.
We can argue about bakers and florists, but can’t we at least agree that judges need to follow state and federal law FIRST and not substitute their personal views about God’s law?
Judge Neely took an oath when she became a judge:
“I, Ruth Neely, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me under the Constitution and laws of the state of Wyoming and the United States. So help me God.”
By expressing her view publicly on same sex marriage and stating that she will answer to God’s law instead of federal and state law, Judge Neely violated her oath.
Her case made its way through the Wyoming judicial ethics commission and to the Wyoming Supreme Court.
As a result of her statement on the record, Judge Ruth Neely was censured by the Wyoming Supreme Court. Her punishment? All they asked her to do was to officiate at all weddings or stop officiating weddings at all.
This wasn’t her primary job or source of income. But she wasn’t content with that and refused. She needed to insist that the same-sex relationships shouldn’t be recognized the same as opposite-sex marriages.
To counter that concern, in her earlier case, Judge Neely brought out a cast of LGBT characters to testify that she was a good person and that she loved gay people. She made the classic “I can’t be prejudiced because I have a black friend” argument. Well, that dog don’t hunt, as my grandpa used to say.
I’m willing to discuss “religious freedom” for people whose profession is innately intertwined with artistic expression and whether there are limits on the reach of the public accommodations laws with respect to what customers they are required to serve.
But judges? If you don’t want to give the protection of the law to everyone, then you’re in the wrong job!