A justice of the peace in Waco, Texas, is waiting for her day in court after being taken to task by a state commission for an innovative solution that allowed her to preserve her religious convictions.
Dianne Hensley (pictured) serves in McLennan County, an area where many of the judges and justices of the peace decided to give up the practice of performing weddings following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015 that legalized same-sex "marriage."
"Most of them had a conviction that led them against doing that, and so they just decided to end the practice altogether," explains attorney Jeremy Dys of First Liberty Institute, the law firm representing Hensley in a lawsuit she filed last year.
"That didn't sit real well with Dianne Hensley, and so [she] came up with a really innovative solution in which she created, at some cost to herself, a referral list for people who would be willing to provide those services in light of the fact that she couldn't do that." (See related video below)
Under that arrangement, according to Dys, anybody who wanted to be married could.
"They were able to walk three blocks down the street to a walk-in wedding chapel, pay the same amount of money to that walk-in wedding chapel, and they were able to be married," he continues. "It was a great solution, everybody liked it, it worked well … but then the Commission on Judicial Conduct in Texas got wind of the idea and [after an investigation of about 18 months] pronounced her guilty of discrimination and gave her a public reprimand."
According to the attorney, no one had issued an official complaint to the Commission on Judicial Conduct. Dys calls the Commission's actions a bridge too far.
"In this country, we can have lots of areas of disagreement on things," he acknowledges. "But we can come up and reward … innovative solutions like what Dianne Hensley went through to make sure that anybody who wanted to be married could be married and yet she could preserve her religious convictions in the process."
It's unknown as to when Judge Hensley and First Liberty will be in court.
"We ought to be rewarding people who come up with such innovation solutions like Dianne Hensley came up with," Dys argues. "The fact that we have instead decided to publicly reprimand her and, if she doesn't stop this process, threaten her with increasing sanctions, including the potential to remove her from office – I think that's not only unkind, it's wrong."
In January, the office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced it would not defend the Commission.