Justice of the Peace Diane Hensley, the Waco, TX-based judge who refused to marry same-sex couples, has launched a class-action lawsuit against the state following a public warning issued to her by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.
The Houston Chronicle reports Hensley has cited her faith as the basis for her discrimination against performing civil marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples. Earlier this year, the State Commission reprimanded Hensley for her conduct. Now Hensley demands a religious exemption for herself, and for any other judges that refuse to serve queer couples.
Hensley’s lawsuit alleges that the warning issued by the State Commission violates her religious freedom. She seeks $10,000 in restitution as well as a legal precedent that would allow justices of the peace to decline services to queer couples.
“I think we all understand there are a lot of really high levels of disagreement on rather eternal matters for everybody on this issue,” said Hensley’s attorney Jeremy Dys. “How do we go forward creating a situation in which people can have their religious convictions without being punished by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct?”
The precedent set by the lawsuit could have far-reaching implications, not just for justices of the peace, but for any judge who requests religious exemption from a case or duty. Should the court find in favor of Hensely, the precedent could strike a critical blow to marriage equality, and the standing of same-sex couples under the law.
Earlier this month, Equality Texas CEO Ricardo Martinez slammed Hensley for her conduct. “These elected officials continue to waste taxpayer money in an obsession to discriminate against gay and transgender Texans. Discrimination of any kind is unacceptable. Their actions are meanspirited, futile, a waste of taxpayer money and most importantly, it’s wrong.”