Texas Supreme Court Sides With Christian Judge On Gay Marriage Stance

July 1st, 2024 11:57 AM

The Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of religious liberty on Friday.

In an 8-1 decision, the court ruled that Dianne Hensley, a justice of the peace in Waco, Texas, does not have to perform same-sex weddings and may carry on with her lawsuit against the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

After the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision in 2015, noting that states must allow and recognize same sex marriages, Hensley, and many other religiously convicted judges, decided it would be best to stop performing weddings entirely. 

Naturally however, the lack of available judges forced locals to travel further in order to get married. Feeling badly about this, Hensley decided to begin performing weddings again and worked with a local minister to get people married quickly at a low cost. Hensley worked tirelessly to serve the people of Waco. Here’s part of the case summary released by First Liberty who is representing Hensley. 

When Judge Hensley was unable to marry a couple for scheduling or religious reasons, her staff would inform the couple of the accommodation arrangement and refer them to the civil officiant. Multiple couples were accommodated by this system and happily accepted the referral. No one ever complained about Judge Hensley’s referral system. In fact, most couples were grateful for the accommodation, which allowed them to get married without delay or additional cost.

Despite the fact that this system was working, the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct (CJC) got their panties in a wad and decided, “on its own authority,” to conduct a lengthy investigation into Hensley’s referral system.

“Judge Hensley had followed the law, came up with an innovative solution to reconcile her religious convictions while serving the needs of her community, and received no complaints about her action,” the case summary notes adding that “the CJC still issued a ‘Public Warning’ to her, alleging that her refusal to officiate same-sex weddings and her referrals of couples to a local minister ‘cast reasonable doubt on [her] capacity to act impartially as a judge.’”

First Liberty Institute and Jonathan F. Mitchell of Mitchell Law PLLC filed a lawsuit on behalf of Hensley noting that she was “wrongly punished” for her unwillingness to perform marriages for gay couples.

The case went all the way up to the Texas Supreme Court who decided Friday that Hensley’s lawsuit may continue and she, along with First Liberty and Mitchell, can fight for her religious freedom.

The court noted that she had standing to sue the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, but, as Local News KXXV noted, it did not “address whether she was protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. 

“Judge Hensley’s actions were not unethical, unconstitutional, or illegal in any way. Politely declining to participate in a same-sex wedding for religious reasons does not demonstrate bias or prejudice against gay people,” Justice Jimmy Blacklock wrote agreeing with the court’s ruling.

Hiram Sasser, executive general counsel for First Liberty noted that “Judge Hensley's way of reconciling her religious beliefs while meeting the needs of her community is not only legal but should stand as a model for public officials across Texas. This is a great victory for Judge Hensley and renews her opportunity to seek justice under the religious liberty protections of the law."

The case has not been thrown out and is being passed back down to the lower court. Hensley told KWTX Friday that she is “thrilled” and is “truly grateful to the Supreme Court for giving me the opportunity to continue to stand for religious liberty and the rule of law.”