McLennan County Judge’s lawsuit over same-sex marriage reprimand moved to Austin

Local News

The lawsuit against the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct on behalf of McLennan County Justice of the Peace Dianne Hensley is being moved to Travis County.

On Thursday, Judge Jim Meyer of the 170th District Court granted the change of venue request filed by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

As FOX44 News reported on Dec. 2nd, the State of Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct claimed Hensley cast doubt on her capacity to act impartially to persons appearing before her as a judge due to the person’s sexual orientation.

The commission based the decision on the fact that Judge Hensley and her court staff give all same-sex couples wishing to be married by her a document which state, “I’m sorry, but Judge Hensley has a sincerely held religious belief as a Christian, and will not be able to perform any same-sex weddings.” That document also contained a list of people who would officiate a same-sex wedding.

The lawsuit alleges that Judge Hensley was, “wrongly punished for accommodating same-sex marriages, and was also given a ‘Public Warning’ by the Commission which violates the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

Texas law allows judges to officiate weddings but it does not require them to do so.

After the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision in 2015, most judges in Waco and McLennan County stopped performing weddings.

First Liberty says to ensure those seeking to be married in McLennan County could be, including same-sex couples, Judge Hensley made arrangements with a local private vendor and her staff to facilitate weddings she, for religious reasons or just because of schedule, could not officiate.

In its lawsuit, First Liberty argues, “The Commission violated the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act by investigating and punishing Judge Hensley for recusing herself from officiating at same-sex weddings, in accordance with the commands of her Christian faith.” Adding, “By investigating and punishing her for acting in accordance with the commands of her Christian faith, the State of Texas has substantially burdened the free exercise of her religion, with no compelling justification.”

You can read the full complaint here.

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