A Texas justice of the peace is hitting back after receiving a warning about her refusal — based on her Christian beliefs — to officiate at same-sex marriage ceremonies.
Judge Dianne Hensley has filed suit against the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct for allegedly “punishing” her for her religious beliefs, the lawsuit says. The suit also alleges there had been no public complaints about her practice of referring same-sex couples to another judge, which she has been doing since 2016.
Same-sex couples who want Hensley to perform their ceremonies have been receiving a letter stating: “I’m sorry, but Judge Hensley has a sincerely held religious belief as a Christian, and will not be able to perform same-sex weddings,” according to the lawsuit.
The Commission on Judicial Conduct issued Hensley a public warning in November “for casting doubt on her capacity to act impartially to persons appearing before her as a judge due to the person’s sexual orientation in violation of Canon 4A(l) of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct,” KXXV reported.
The panel became aware of Hensley’s refusals after the Waco Tribune ran a story about her referral system in 2017, the warning said.
First Liberty Institute, a religious liberty law firm in Plano, is representing Hensley and claims the State Commission on Judicial Conduct violated the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act by issuing the warning that “substantially burdened the free exercise of her religion, with no compelling justification,” the lawsuit says.
Hensley is suing for $10,000 in damages, costs and attorneys’ fees, all authorized under the act.
She has been a judge in McLennan County, Texas — in which Waco is located — since 2015.