A judge in Texas has been warned by the state's judicial agency that her refusal to perform same-sex marriages violated the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized gay marriage across the nation.
Dianne Hensley, a McLellan County Justice of the Peace, reportedly began refusing to conduct same-sex weddings since at least 2016 even as she continued to marry heterosexual couples. According to the warning issued by the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct (TCJC), same-sex couples who requested a marriage ceremony from Hensley's office were given a sheet that read: “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,’” along with a list of other local officiants who would be willing to marry them.
The warning also referred to an interview Hensley gave to the Waco-Tribune in which she said she initially did not want to perform any marriages at all, but, later had a change of heart after hearing so many heterosexuals asking to be married even as her conscience prohibited her from officiating at a same-sex wedding.
“My conscience was bothering me, because so many people were calling and wanting a wedding,” Hensley said. According to the outlet, Hensley officiated around 70 marriages for heterosexual couples between September 2015 and June 2017. She told the newspaper that she believed she deserved a “religious exemption” due to her beliefs.
Hensley testified before the Commission that she would recuse herself from any cases if people thought she couldn't be impartial due to her refusal to perform same-sex marriages.
The warning issued by the Commission included a portion from the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct that stated: "A judge shall conduct all of the judge's extra-judicial activities so that they do not cast reasonable doubt on the judge's capacity to act impartially as a judge."
The TCJC said Hensley’s actions warranted a public warning “for casting doubt on her capacity to act impartially to persons appearing before her as a judge due to the person’s sexual orientation."
Hensley will have up to thirty days to challenge the warning issued on Nov. 12.