Same-sex marriage became legal in the United States in 2015 but that does not stop a judge in Waco, Texas from refusing to marry same-sex couples. Justice of the Peace Dianne Hensley began refusing to perform weddings for same-sex couples starting in 2016 and her staff handed gay couples a paper stating due to the judge’s Christian beliefs, she would not perform same-sex weddings and a list of officials that would perform the nuptials.
In November 2019, the Texas Commission on Judical Misconduct issued a warning to Hensley. While her fellow justices of the peace in the Waco courthouse decided to stop performing all weddings to both straight and gay couples to appease their religious beliefs, Hensley married approximately 70 heterosexual couples in the period of September 2015 through June 2017.
According to NBC News, Hensley filed a lawsuit against the Texas Commision on Judical Misconduct on Tuesday, January 28. Hensley is seeking $10,000 in damages claiming the commission’s warning infringes on her religious rights.
Hensley disputes the commission’s warning disregarded her rights under the Texas Religious Freedom Act. Jeremy Dys, an attorney from First Liberty Institute, backs the lawsuit for Hensley in 170th State District Court.
Dys said in a press release, “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.”
Ken Paxton, Texas attorney general, is refusing to represent the Commission of Judical Misconduct in the lawsuit citing the actions of the commission conflict with his point of view on the Constitution.
Spokesperson for Paxton, Marc Rylander commented, “We believe judges retain their right to religious liberty when they take the bench.”