Judge Dianne Hensley

Justice of the Peace Dianne Hensley

[dc]W[/dc]aco, Texas Justice of the Peace Dianne Hensley has filed a lawsuit against the state agency that sanctioned her last month for refusing to perform same-sex weddings. The judge, represented by the First Liberty Institute, filed the suit on her behalf. The organization asserts that the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act “allows any justice of the peace to recuse himself or herself from officiating at same-sex weddings if the commands of their religious faith forbid them to participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies.”

According to the filing, Hensley believes that she cannot personally officiate a same-sex marriage ceremony, but that “[n]ot wishing to bind the conscience of others, Judge Hensley sought to provide the public with reasonable alternatives.” The alternatives consisted of developing a list of alternative, local, and low-cost wedding officiants in Waco, Texas, that would provide the services, including a walk-in wedding chapel located three blocks from her courtroom.

The lawsuit notes that since August 2016, she has performed 328 wedding ceremonies, and “dozens more” have taken advantage of the judge’s referral system.

There is no active complaint against the judge, but the State Commission on Judicial Conduct investigated her in 2018. On November 12, 2019, the Commission issued a “Public Warning” for operating the referral system.

The lawsuit notes that she intends to continue to recuse herself from performing same-sex weddings, and seeks declaratory relief so she can continue to do so.


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