Judge who won't marry same-sex couples cites Supreme Court ruling for Christian web designer
Waco, Texas, Justice of the Peace Dianne Hensley has said she has a religious objection to performing same-sex weddings and refers such couples to another officiant. She argues that a warning that she received violates the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Image from Shutterstock.
A Texas justice of the peace who refuses to marry same-sex couples is citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 30 decision protecting a web designer who won’t create websites for same-sex weddings.
Waco, Texas, Justice of the Peace Dianne Hensley cited 303 Creative v. Elenis in an appeal pending before the Texas Supreme Court, the Texas Tribune reports via Above the Law. Law & Crime also has coverage.
Hensley filed a lawsuit in December 2019 alleging that she was wrongly punished when Texas’ State Commission on Judicial Conduct issued a public warning for her refusal to perform same-sex weddings. She is appealing dismissal of her suit.
Hensley has a religious objection to performing same-sex weddings and refers such couples to another officiant. She argues that the warning that she received violates the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The Supreme Court ruled in 303 Creative that Colorado’s public accommodations law can’t force the Christian web designer to speak in a way that conflicts with her religious views on marriage.
In a letter to the Texas Supreme Court, a lawyer representing Hensley acknowledges that 303 Creative was based on the web designer’s First Amendment rights, rather than a religious freedom law. But the letter said the Supreme Court case is instructive because it “rejects the idea of a ‘compelling interest’ in forcing wedding vendors to participate in same-sex and opposite-sex marriage ceremonies on equal terms.”
In Hensley’s case, the judicial conduct commission has asserted that it has a compelling interest in requiring her to perform same-sex and opposite-sex weddings on equal terms, the letter said.
Hensley is represented by the religious liberty group First Liberty Institute.
Dale Carpenter, a professor at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law told the Texas Tribune that he doesn’t think that 303 Creative helps Hensley’s case because of the difference in plaintiffs. Hensley is a government official acting in her official capacity, while 303 Creative involves a private business, Carpenter said.
Carpenter expects that Hensley’s case won’t be the last to cite 303 Creative.
“This is going to have to be worked through the judicial system, including trial courts and appellate courts, over a period of probably several years at this point because 303 Creative is going to lead us to see many, many more of these cases,” Carpenter said.