A Texas case raises a disturbing question: Are we approaching a state in which Christians will simply not be allowed to serve as judges?
Texas’ Commission on Judicial Conduct is going after a judge who refuses to perform same-sex marriages on Christian principle.
McLennan County Justice of the Peace Dianne Hensley was slapped with a public warning this week. She has said that her “Bible-believing” Christian conscience does not allow her to perform same-sex weddings and that she believes she’s entitled to a “religious exemption.” She continues to perform weddings for heterosexual couples, who fit her traditional definition of marriage.
Monday’s order said Hensley was violating Texas Code of Judicial Conduct which states, “A judge shall conduct all of the judge’s extra-judicial activities so that they do not cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially as a judge,” according to the Waco Tribune-Herald.
It said Hensley is “casting doubt on her capacity to act impartially to persons appearing before her as a judge due to the person’s sexual orientation.”
A public warning is the second most severe of six disciplinary measures wielded by the commission. Other possible punishments include suspension from office and mandatory legal re-education.
The Houston Chronicle reported the complaint was made by the commission itself and not by a member of the public.
Hensley has been in office since 2014, one year before gay marriage was legalized in Texas and across the U.S. by the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. The order specifically referenced comments Hensley made in a June 2017 Tribune-Herald story in which she said she “would only do a wedding between a man and a woman.”
Hensley said her office sometimes tells same-sex couples the judge is not available and gives them a list of those who will perform same-sex weddings.
McLennan County Judge Scott Felton defended Hensley Monday, saying that as an elected official, the judge has the right to run her office the way she wants to.