Law & the Courts

Texas Judge Sues State Commission After Sanction for Declining Same-Sex Weddings

(Andrew Harnik/Reuters)

A Texas judge is suing the State Commission on Judicial Conduct for disciplining her over her refusal to perform same-sex weddings.

The commission sanctioned Judge Dianne Hensley, a justice of the peace in Waco, Texas, giving her a “public warning” on November 12 after she declined to officiate personally the weddings of same-sex couples, which she said goes against her Christian faith. Instead, she referred couples to a wedding chapel three blocks from the courthouse and to a judge roughly 20 miles away.

Represented by religious freedom law firm the First Liberty Institute, Hensley  said the state agency “substantially burdened the free exercise of her religion, with no compelling justification” and violated the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Her suit in McLennan County District Court seeks $10,000 in damages. She also seeks a judgement from the court that any justice of the peace may refuse to preside over a same-sex wedding “if the commands of their religious faith forbid them to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies.”

“For providing a solution to meet a need in my community while remaining faithful to my religious beliefs, I received a ‘Public Warning.’ No one should be punished for that,” Hensley said.

No formal complaint from a marriage license recipient has been filed against Hensley, but the commission had been investigating her referral system for same-sex marriages.

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