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Texas Supreme Court sides with Waco Judge on same-sex marriage appeal

The case started when a McLennan County judge refused to marry same-sex couples after the federal ruling in 2015
Dianne Hensley.PNG
Posted at 4:56 PM, Jun 28, 2024

WACO, Texas (KXXV) — In an opinion issued today, the Texas Supreme Court has sided with McLennan County Judge Dianne Hensley in a legal back-and-forth that started in 2019.

Back then, Hensley refused to wed same-sex couples, citing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The State Commission on Judicial Conduct issued a public warning to the local justice of peace, arguing her actions violated the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct.

She filed a lawsuit against the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct after that, arguing the investigation and warning “substantially burdened the free exercise of her religion, with no compelling justification.”

In the ruling Friday, the Texas Supreme Court says Hensley has standing to sue the the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, but did not address whether she was protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

In Chief Justice Nathan Hecht's opinion, he states any justice of the peace is not required to officiate at wedding ceremonies.

"She announced that because of her religious beliefs she would not perform weddings for same-sex couples but would refer them to others who would," Hecht continued, noting that there were never any complaints about Hensley's refusal filed.

"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," wrote Justice Jimmy Blacklock, in agreement with the court's ruling.

The ruling allows the lawsuit from Hensley against the State Commission on Judicial Conduct to continue. For the religious claims, the Texas Supreme Court sends the appeal back down to the lower court.