A municipal judge in Wyoming may lose her job and be compelled to pay a $40,000 fine for telling a journalist over a phone interview that she, as a judge, will not officiate same-sex marriage but other magistrates may do so, in response to a hypothetical question posed by him.
Reporter Ned Donovan had called judge Ruth Neely for her comments after same-sex marriage was legalized in Wyoming in 2014. He asked her if she would be "excited" about performing same-sex marriages, to which she responded she would not be able to do them.
"We have at least one magistrate who will do same-sex marriages, but I will not be able to," she was quoted as saying in the interview. She added that her view on marriage is that between one man and one woman.
A formal complaint was filed against her after the interview was published, and a misconduct investigation was initiated by Wyoming Commission on Judicial Conduct and Ethics.
According to the Baptist Press, Neely was offered various conditions if she would agree to conduct same-sex marriages, such as not publishing the interview story, or dropping the prosecution. However, Neely declined the offers every time.
The commission then voted unanimously to file a recommendation to the Wyoming Supreme Court to oust Neely from her post.
Neely's attorneys and supporters say that efforts of an unelected commission to remove her from office because of her opinion about gay marriages are based on misinterpretation of law.
Neely's lawyers have asked the state supreme court to dismiss the commission's recommendations that she was in non-compliance with the law and needed to be removed her office.
Neely had served as a Municipal Judge in Pinedale for nearly 21 years.
Her supporters from the state are rallying with her to prevent her removal from the office where she had an impeccable record of service.
"The fundamental principle that no judge should be expelled from office because of her core convictions unites a diverse group of Wyoming's citizens, including members of the LGBT community who have expressed dismay at the commission's actions here," states a brief submitted by her lawyers.