- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 17, 2019

A Texas judge sued the State Commission on Judicial Conduct this week for punishing her for not officiating same-sex wedding ceremonies, which she said violates her Christian faith.

Judge Dianne Hensley, a justice of the peace in Waco, Texas, since 2015, was sanctioned last month, receiving a “public warning” from the commission for referring same-sex couples to a wedding chapel three blocks from the courthouse as well as another judge about 20 miles away, both of which accommodate same-sex ceremonies. The cost was equivalent to Judge Hensley’s fees.

Judge Hensley said she did so because of her religious beliefs and her church’s stand against same-sex marriage, and she had not been the subject of a formal complaint from a marriage license recipient. But the State Commission on Judicial Conduct launched an investigation in May 2018 into the referral system after a newspaper article in the Waco Tribune detailed Judge Hensley’s views.

“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,” Judge Hensley said.

With the help of First Liberty, a conservative religious liberty legal group, Judge Hensley has sued the commission, asking the court to issue a judgment that her referral program complies with the state law and violates neither her faith nor the rights of same-sex couples under the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in 2015.

The State Commission on Judicial Conduct did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But Steve Fischer, a member of the commission, speaking for himself, told The Washington Times that the commission has “total immunity under 33.06 of the [Government] Code.”

Judge Hensley wants the court to rule the commission can’t take any further action against her since she is not violating the law.

“Judge Hensley also intends to continue recusing herself from officiating at same-sex weddings — her conscience demands it — despite the Commission’s warning,” reads the 84-page complaint filed in McLennan County, Texas.

Jeremy Dys, counsel with First Liberty Institute, said because of Judge Hensley, anyone in the country who wants to get married has the ability to do so.

“For simply trying to reconcile her religious beliefs while meeting the needs of her community — ensuring anyone can get married who wants to be married —the Commission on Judicial Conduct punished her,” Mr. Dys said.

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