Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Texas Justice of the Peace Disciplined for Refusing to Wed Gay Couples

Texas Christianists are not pleased.
Dianne Hensley
Dianne Hensley is yet another public official who attempts to excuse her bigotry with supposed religious beliefs.
via Houston Chronicle
Waco Justice of the Peace Dianne Hensley decided that her god does not approve of same-sex marriages notwithstanding the fact that a justice of the peace unites couples in civil marriage. A justice of the peace is not required to perform marriages. However, if he or she chooses to do so then they are required to perform the service for all legally eligible couples.

Hensley has routinely married heterosexual couples. However, same-sex couples seeking the same service would be given 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.” The document also referred the couple to other people in the area who would perform the service.

Hensley has been doing this for three years. Finally, she has been called to account for her illicit behavior. The Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct has concluded that Hensley violated ethical standards by adopting a policy that casts doubt on her ability to treat LGBTQ people fairly in her courtroom. The commission issued a public warning to Hensley on November 12 but announced it on Monday.

The warning is a rather mild rebuke. It is south of a reprimand but more serious than an admonition. Regardless of the severity of the discipline the responsible regulatory agency determined that this kind of behavior is unacceptable for a public official.

I always ask the same questions. Suppose Hensley would not unite an interfaith — Jewish-Christian — couple because of her religious beliefs? How about an interracial couple? We would not entertain the circumstance. Not for a second. However, people are wed to the notion that discriminating against a gay couple is not only acceptable but required in accordance with the universal excuse of Sincerely Held Religious Beliefs™.

This has little to do with impermissible behavior according to religious principles. Rather, it is a petty means of expressing disapproval of gay people. That disapproval is based on religious beliefs but that does not mean that Henley would be violating religious doctrine by doing her job.

Jonathan Saenz, leader of Texas Values, a right wing Christian group, said that the discipline of Hensley was another shot in the “war on religious freedom.”

According to Saenz: “Now we have some in this state commission threatening Christian judges who refuse to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies. This is a clear example of putting politics above universal principles of freedom.”

Saenz has been railing against gay people ever since his wife left him for another woman. It is preposterous to assert that religious freedom allows a public official to discriminate.

What Saenz claims is a war on religious freedom is his war opposing the civil rights of LGBTQ people.

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