Back in December of 2019, after refusing to do her job by marrying gay couples who visit her courthouse, Texas Justice of The Peace Dianne Hensley was given a public warning by the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct. It really was a slap on the wrist. Instead of removing her from the job she refused to do, the Commission merely said she was “casting doubt on her capacity to act impartially” and said she could be punished in the future.
In its lawsuit, First Liberty argues, “The Commission violated the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act by investigating and punishing Judge Hensley for recusing herself from officiating at same-sex weddings, in accordance with the commands of her Christian faith.” Adding, “By investigating and punishing her for acting in accordance with the commands of her Christian faith, the State of Texas has substantially burdened the free exercise of her religion, with no compelling justification.”
No compelling justification?! The compelling justification was that people deserve to be treated equally under the law. A judge who would perform a wedding ceremony for straight couples but not gay ones has no business being a judge. She should go work in an evangelical church where bigotry is celebrated. Being a Christian shouldn’t be some immunity label that allows certain government officials to avoid the law. (Hasn’t bigot Kim Davis taught you people anything?)
Hensley was asking for $10,000 in damages, additional relief, attorneys’ fees, and a declaration that everyone in her position could be a moral monster if their God commanded it.
Thankfully, a judge has now tossed out her case.
Judge Jan Soifer of Austin’s 459th State District Court listed a variety of reasons for dismissing the lawsuit. She ruled that the State Commission on Judicial Conduct has sovereign and statutory immunity from the claims and that Hensley failed to exhaust other legal remedies before filing her lawsuit.
That sounds like a ruling on technicalities, not merit, but either way, it amounts to a victory for civil rights and against Christian hate. Hensley will also have to pay court costs. She’s a loser in every sense of the word.
Remember that this wasn’t about a Christian business owner choosing to discriminate against customers — which is bad enough on its own. This was about someone who chose to be a government official and unilaterally decided she didn’t have to follow the law if Jesus taught her to hate the people in front of her. It’s not her decision to make. She wasn’t there to perform religious ceremonies anyway; she has no business holding a position when she can’t even do the bare minimum.