Anti-gay Texas judge sues state for telling her she must do her job

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Justice of the Peace Dianne Hensley wants the state to pay her $10,000 and allow her to continue discriminating against same-sex couples.

A Texas judge who was warned not to discriminate against same-sex couples has filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming the warning had cast "doubt on her capacity to act impartially."

Justice of the Peace Dianne Hensley of Waco, Texas, is effectively demanding the right to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on marriage equality, as well as demanding $10,000 in "damages."

According to the Waco Tribune-Herald, Hensley filed a class-action law suit in state court on Tuesday. She claimed that the letter of warning violated her religious liberty under the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which mandates that government agencies not "substantially burden a person's free exercise of religion."

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In addition to the $10,000 in damages, Hensley is also demanding a declaratory judgment that the commission violated her rights, as well as a class-action guarantee that all other justices of the peace will be allowed to discriminate against same-sex couples in the same way.

Hensley specifically claimed the commission had cast "doubt on her capacity to act impartially to persons appearing before her as a judge due to the person’s sexual orientation."

Texas does not require justices of the peace to officiate marriages, but since the 2015 Obergefell case guaranteed same-sex couples of marry, the state has left it up to them whether to marry all couples or none.

Hensley decided her religious beliefs entitled her to ignore this rule and that she would perform marriages only for opposite-sex couples.

Since 2016, she and her staff have given same-sex couples wishing to be married a piece of paper that said "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."

Hensley says they refer same-sex couples to other officiants who do not have the same objections.

Last month, the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct issued a "public warning" reminding Hensley that the Texas code requires judges to act "impartially." This amounted to a slap on the wrist and came after two commissioners who supported a stronger punishment were removed from the supposedly "independent" agency by Gov. Greg Abbott (R).

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.