McLennan County Justice of the Peace Sues After Same-Sex Wedding Reprimand
UPDATE: Justice of the Peace Dianne Hensley held a press briefing Tuesday afternoon.
Back in November, McLennan County JP Dianne Hensley received a letter from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct stating that she "should be publicly warned 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".
The code cited requires judges to perform extra-judicial activities so as not to cast doubt on their capacity to act impartially.
The reprimand came in response to Hensley's refusal to perform same-sex marriages due to her religious objection to the practice, instead referring couples to other wedding officiants in the area and offering to recuse herself from any cases in which her stance on same-sex marriage cast doubts on her impartiality.
Hensley has answered the warning with a lawsuit alleging the commission's actions are in violation of the Texas Religious Freedom Act. John Carrol with our partners at News 10 reports that Hensley's suit seeks a statewide declaratory judgement that the act allows JPs to recuse themselves of officiating same-sex marriages, and that a JP expressing disapproval of homosexual behavior or supporting churches or institutions opposed to homosexual behavior is not in violation of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct.
Hensley's suit also seeks damages for the cost of responding to the commission's warning and income lost when she stopped performing weddings altogether.
After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that the right of same-sex couples to marry is protected by the U.S. Constitution, many justices of the peace stopped officiating weddings. Hensley reportedly stopped for a time, but resumed officiating traditional marriages in August of 2016.
When we asked for your opinions back in November, roughly half felt Hensley has the right to refuse to officiate same-sex marriages, while others felt she should either be impartial in performing marriages or not perform them at all.
Do you think Hensley's impartiality as a judge should be in question if she chooses not to officiate same-sex weddings due to her religious convictions? Why or why not?