Ruth Neely, a judge in a small town in Wyoming, told her local newspaper she wouldn’t perform same-sex marriages, citing her religious beliefs.
“When law and religion conflict, choices have to be made,” she told the Sublette Examiner in 2014. She said the town had at least one other magistrate who would perform them.
Though there was never an issue when a same-sex couple asked Neely to marry them and she refused, the comment started trouble for Neely in the Wyoming court system that concluded Wednesday.
Neely was publicly censured by the Wyoming Supreme Court, according to CBS News, but not removed from the bench. The court ruled 3-2 that Neely, whose primary duty is to perform marriages in Pinedale, Wyoming, violated the judicial code.
“Judge Neely shall either perform no marriage ceremonies or she shall perform marriage ceremonies regardless of the couple’s sexual orientation,” wrote Justice Kate Fox.
Fox added that the decision had nothing to do with same-sex marriage or religious beliefs.
“This case is also not about imposing a religious test on judges,” Fox said. “Rather, it is about maintaining the public’s faith in an independent and impartial judiciary that conducts its judicial functions according to the rule of law, independent of outside influences, including religion, and without regard to whether a law is popular or unpopular.”
However, Fox said they decided not to remove her because it would “unnecessarily circumscribe protected expression,” and that Neely was simply reacting “to a quickly changing legal landscape, one in which many judges have experienced similar turmoil,” according to NBC News.
The dissenting judges argued that Neely had not violated judicial code and same-sex couples could have been married by another judge in the town.