The Texas agency that investigates judicial misconduct issued a public warning to a justice of the peace in Waco who has refused to perform same-sex marriages while continuing to marry straight couples.
In its warning made public on Monday, the Texas Commission on Judicial Misconduct said McLennan County Justice of the Peace Dianne Hensley has refused to perform same-sex weddings since August 2016, despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision a year earlier that established the constitutional right to same-sex marriage. Some other justices of the peace in the county stopped performing weddings altogether after the Supreme Court’s ruling.
The commission said Hensley is violating the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct by “casting doubt on her capacity to act impartially to persons appearing before her as a judge due to the person’s sexual orientation.”
The commission referred to comments Hensley made to the Waco Tribune-Herald in 2017 in which she said her “Bible-believing” Christian conscience prohibits her from doing same-sex weddings. She also told the newspaper that she believes she’s entitled to a “religious exemption.”
Her office sometimes will tell same-sex couples that the judge is not available, giving them a list of those who will perform same-sex weddings and a document stating, “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,” the commission’s order said.
Hensley has 30 days to appeal the sanction. She and her attorney have both declined to comment on the commission’s warning.
McLennan Country Judge Scott Felton, however, said that as an elected official, Hensley has the right to run her office the way she wants to.
Waco attorney Mike Dixon, who represents the county, agrees, saying elected officials can operate their offices as they wish, especially when it involves a duty, such as performing weddings, that they are not statutorily required to do.