Local judge reprimanded for refusing to perform same-sex marriages

Published: Dec. 2, 2019 at 4:26 PM CST
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Republican McLennan County Pct. 1, Pl. 1 Justice of the Peace Dianne Hensley has received a warning from the State Commission on Judicial Conduct after refusing to perform same-sex marriages while continuing to officiate opposite-sex weddings.

“Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct has determined that the Honorable Judge Dianne Hensley, Justice of the Peace for Precinct 1, Place 1 in Waco, McLennan County, Texas, should be publicly warned for casting doubt on her capacity to act impartially to persons appearing before her as a judge due to the person's sexual orientation in violation of Canon 4A(l) of the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct,” the letter, signed by David Hall, chairman of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, says.

The Texas Code of Judicial Conduct says judges must conduct “extra-judicial activities so that they do not cast reasonable doubt on the judge’s capacity to act impartially as a judge.”

The matter came to light in June 2017 after the Waco Tribune-Herald reported that Hensley "would only do a wedding between a man and a woman."

Since August 2016, Hensley and her staff have provided same-sex couples who wanted to marry a document 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,” but during the same period Hensley has performed ceremonies for heterosexual couples, the warning says.

Hensley testified before the commission that "she would recuse herself from a case in which a party doubted her impartiality on the basis she publicly refuses to perform same-sex weddings,” the warning document says.

Hensley didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the warning.