McLennan County Justice of the Peace Dianne Hensley, a devout Christian, has received a public warning by Texas’ State Commission on Judicial Conduct for refusing to perform same-sex marriages.
The Waco Tribune-Herald reports Hensley, who has been in office for the last five years, has said that, as a “Bible-believing” Christian, her conscience prohibited her from doing same-sex weddings so she was entitled to a “religious exemption.”
Hensley said her office sometimes tells same-sex couples that the judge is not available and gives them a list of those who will perform same-sex weddings, including ministers and Precinct 3 JP David Pareya in West.
The commission’s order says that for the last three years, the judge had performed opposite-sex weddings but has declined to perform same-sex ceremonies.
A public warning is the second of six disciplinary measures that the commission can use. Other measures include suspension from office and requiring additional legal education, according to The Tribune-Herald.
The Houston Chronicle reported the complaint was brought forward by the commission itself, not a member of the public.
However, other McLennan County officials are speaking out on Hensley’s behalf.
McLennan County Judge Scott Felton told The Tribune-Herald on Monday that, as an elected official, Hensley has the right to run her office the way she wants to.
Waco attorney Mike Dixon, who represents the county, agreed with Felton saying elected officials can operate their offices as they wish, especially when it involves a duty, such as performing weddings, that they are not statutorily required to do.
“My advice when asked was that they should either do it for everyone or not do it at all,” Dixon told the newspaper. “My view is if you do it, you do it for everybody, but if you are not going to do it for everybody, you just don’t do it.”
Although judges can make thousands of dollars officiating at weddings in their spare time, some in Texas quit performing weddings following the Supreme Court decision in 2015 that legalized homosexual marriages.
Hensley has 30 days to appeal the commission’s sanction by requesting three appellate judges to review her case, according to Fox News.