A judge in Texas who refuses to marry same-sex couples has filed a lawsuit against the state agency that oversees judicial misconduct. It had the audacity to warn her to change her ways.
Justice of the Peace Dianne Hensley works in Waco, McLellan County. A devout Christian, she has filed a class-action lawsuit to enable her, and others justices of the peace in the state, to decline to marry same-sex couples.
She is being backed by the First Liberty Institute, an organization that has helped others to fight to express their religious beliefs.
SCOTUS ruled in 2015 that same-sex couples could marry across the US. Some officiants and judges have stepped down from performing marriage ceremonies because they believe having to wed gay couples goes against their religious beliefs.
In Texas, officiating weddings is an optional duty for justices of the peace. Performing them can help those officiating to earn thousands of dollars in extra income.
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Hensley has conducted over 300 wedding ceremonies since August 2016 – all for opposite-sex couples.
If her office was approached by any same-sex couples, they were given a document explaining her reasoning for declining and providing a list of others who could perform the ceremony.
News of Hensley’s opposition to marrying gay couples is not new. In 2017, she told local news station 25 News KXXV, “I have no desire to offend anybody, but the last person I want to offend is God.”
In the same year, she told the Waco Tribune-Herald of her belief that if another justice of the peace performs same-sex weddings in McLennan County, the couples’ constitutional rights are not being violated. As such, she believes she is acting within the law.
On December 2nd, the Commission on Judicial Conduct issued a warning to Hensley. It says her continued refusal to perform same-sex marriages cast, “doubt on her capacity to act impartially to persons appearing before her as a judge due to the person’s sexual orientation.”
If Hensley continues to refuse, the commission can remove her from office.
Her reaction to the commission’s warning is to hit back with the legal action, saying its disciplinary action against her constituted a violation of her rights under the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
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In an action filed yesterday at Waco’s 170th State District Court, Hensley is seeking $10,000 in damages and a ruling that the commission violated her religious rights.
She wants to be able to continue to refuse to marry same-sex couples and for others who feel the same to also be allowed to follow their conscience, reports Waco-Tribune Herald.
Hensley insists that anyone who wishes to get married in McLellan County can do so, and that referring same-sex couples to others lets her off the hook.
In a statement to KXXV, she said, “I sought a solution so that anyone in McLennan County who wants to get married can do so. I have, do, and always will follow the law.”
In a press statement about her civil action yesterday, she added: “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.”
PLAYS WELL WITH OTHERS
This vile crunt and all the miserable abhorrent bigots need to realize that they swear an oath which they agree to carry out ALL the duties of their position as determined by law. There is not an option for picking and choosing which they want.
Unfortunately these disgusting bigots have created this new concept of “religious freedom” to cloak their hatred and bigotry. The argument that needs to be strongly put forth from our side is simply that one CHOOSES to become a member of a religion. They have every right to live by tenants of said religion. However their CHOICE of a religion does not entitle them to deny service or accomodations to anyone covered by legislation created by laws set forth in any jurisdiction
Your BELIEFS do not trump my RIGHTS….
You are entitled to your Religious Freedom, however, your religious freedom ends at your front door. You have no right or invitation to evoke your religious beliefs on me. Do your job as required or resign.
JT in Texas
It’s Texas, she’ll probably win this suit.
I’m not sure she deserves any money, and I can see the point made by the Commission on Judicial Conduct, but in the US it’s pretty clear that Religious Freedom is a real thing. If she were the only Justice of the Peace in her county this would be a much larger problem than it is. It seems it’s the counties job to make sure they follow the law at the county level. so they must have a Justice of the Peace who is willing to do same sex weddings, but not all of their JP’s need do them. something like this is the compromise that will have happen, because in the eyes of the law both Religious Freedom and same sex marriage are legal, and one does not take precedence over the other. I see her point, so long as same sex couple can get married by a JP in her county she can hold to her beliefs. I don’t necessarily like her point of view, but I think like JT in Texas said, she’ll probably win, but not because it’s Texas, she’s going to win because her religious freedom matters from a legal point of view. We can’t forget the cake baker, he ultimately won at the supreme court, and in his case there were many other bakers who do and will bake a cake for same sex couples – legally I think the trend is going to slowly emerge that supports individual religious freedom when the service the LGBT patron is seeking is easily and conveniently available. The other solution will be slow in coming, but will likely have to do with the oath that public officials take, it will clearly spell out the duties required and will make a statement that acknowledges that some of the duties may offend you but that these duties are required to be performed if you accept the position – and also saying that – if at anytime you can not or will not perform all of the required duties you will step down and allow the position to be filled by someone more fit for the role.
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