Judge Dianne Hensley, a justice of the peace in Waco, Texas, was warned by a state commission in 2019 when it learned she was refusing to officiate same-sex weddings. She appealed her punishment last week before the state court.
Hensley (pictured at right) is being represented by First Liberty Institute, where Hiram Sasser is an attorney and defended his client before the state justices.
"The argument went really well from our perspective," Sasser tells AFN.
For a religious person such as Hensley, the Obergefell ruling in 2015 created a huge moral conflict because the U.S. Supreme Court said two men, or two women, must be legally recognized as a married couple. That legal precedent conflicts with thousands of years of biblical teachings about marriage and sexuality, however, and overnight many people such as Hensley were told to accept a wedding ceremony they viewed as immoral.
Lawsuit could end 'marriage equality'
According to The Texas Tribune, a liberal newspaper, Hensley filed a lawsuit against the state commission accusing it of violating her free exercise of religion under the First Amendment. A lower-court tribunal dismissed the lawsuit but the Texas Supreme Court agreed to hear her appeal, the newspaper reported in a story published before last week's hearing.
Liberal legal analysts and homosexual rights activists told the Tribune they are alarmed Hensley was citing a second U.S. Supreme Court ruling, 302 Creative LLC v Enis, to defend her religious rights. That landmark ruling, which was handed down earlier this summer, defended the First Amendment rights of a business owner who refused to use her creative talents as a website designer to recognize same-sex weddings.
The homosexual activists expressed alarm because Hensley’s legal fight, if successful, could expand the 303 Creative case to include public officials not just business owners.
"The law of the land is marriage equality," a homosexual activist told the Tribune. "If judges and justices of the peace were empowered to only enforce the laws that they agreed with, we would quickly descend into anarchy.”
A second homosexual activist told the Tribune that Hensley winning her lawsuit would "basically gut a good portion of marriage equality that we got," referring to the Obergefell ruling.
“303 Creative affirmed that religious liberty is not a second-class right in America,” Justin Butterfield, a second First Liberty attorney, told the Tribune before last week’s hearing. “We look forward to vindicating Judge Hensley’s rights in the Texas Supreme Court.”