Texas Judge Refuses to Marry Same-Sex Couples, Cites Supreme Court Decision

Author: Christopher Wiggins

A Texas judge is trying to use a recent Supreme Court ruling to justify her refusal to perform same-sex marriages. In a brief filed in state court, the judge who was reprimanded in 2019 for refusing to conduct same-sex marriages argued that even though the U.S. Supreme Court based its ruling in the 303 Creative LLC vs. Eleniscase where a Colorado web designer’s right to not service same-sex couples was upheld on First Amendment grounds rather than state law, it should apply to her lawsuit as well.

Dianne Hensley has waged a public battle against the State Commission on Judicial Conduct since the state agency warned her about refusing to perform same-sex marriages in 2019, the Texas Tribunereports.

When the state’s Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly rebuked her in December 2019, she sued. Among the reasons for the sanction was “casting doubt on her capacity to act impartially to persons appearing before her as a judge due to the person’s sexual orientation,” according to public documents.

Last month, the Supreme Court ruled that a web designer could not be forced to craft messages that violated her beliefs about same-sex couples.

Jonathan Mitchell, the former Texas solicitor general, has been on a mission to oppose LGBTQ+, women’s, and other civil rights in the United States. He filed the most recent brief on behalf of the judge.

In 303 Creative, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the First Amendment over state law. Last month, the six conservative high court justices held that a Colorado web designer could not be forced to compromise her views to serve same-sex couples. She sought the court’s judgment even though she had not been approached to design a website for a gay couple. By relying on a narrow ruling, the court ruled that forcing her to write messages for queer couples would violate her right to free speech.

Using the narrow ruling as a basis, Mitchell says the ruling also applies to Hensley’s lawsuit

303 Creative was interpreting the First Amendment’s Speech Clause rather than the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Its holding is nonetheless 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,” explains Mitchell in the brief.

Mitchell has brought several lawsuits looking to restrict the rights of marginalized groups.

In a recent lawsuit, Mitchell challenged the federal government’s mandate that insurance companies cover preventative care, including PrEP, a medication that prevents HIV transmission. He claimed that forcing his clients to buy insurance policies that cover these services violated their religious freedom rights in Braidwood Management vs. Xavier Becerra since paying for prevention services like PrEP encourages homosexual behavior, which his clients reject as sinful.

In addition to queer patients, straight people use PrEP drugs as well. The sexual orientation of a person is not relevant to how HIV or any other virus enters a body.

A conservative federal judge ruled in Mitchell’s favor though the case is being appealed, and the ruling has been mostly put on hold.

According to Hensley, the Judicial Conduct Commission’s warning “substantially burdened the free exercise of her religion, with no compelling justification.”

In her lawsuit that was previously put on ice, she is seeking damages for $10,000. First Liberty Institute, a prominent Plano religious liberty law firm, represented her.

According to the Tribune, the suspended Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is closely associated with the legal group.

Under the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act, she alleges a violation of her civil rights by the commission.

Last month, the Texas Supreme Court announced that it would hear arguments reviving a lawsuit dismissed by a lower appellate court.

Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Christopher Wiggins

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