A Texas official is suing to defend his opposition to same-sex marriage.
Jack County Judge Brian Keith Umphress claims the State Commission on Judicial Conduct is violating his First Amendment rights. Last year, the commission issued a warning against another judge, McLennon County Justice of the Peace Diane Hensley, for refusing to perform same-sex marriages due to her Christian faith. Hensley is also suing, and Attorney General Ken Paxton has declined to defend the commission.
In his federal lawsuit, Umphress challenges the commission’s finding that Hensley’s anti-gay views cast “reasonable doubt” as to her impartiality.
“Most judges disapprove of adultery, a substantial number (though probably not a majority) disapprove of pre-marital sex, and nearly every judge disapproves of polygamy, prostitution, pederasty, and pedophilia,” Umphress’ lawsuit states. “A judge who holds these beliefs — either on religious or non-religious grounds—has not compromised his impartiality toward litigants who engage in those behaviors. It is absurd to equate a judge’s disapproval of an individual’s behavior as undermining the judge’s impartiality toward litigants who engage in that conduct. Otherwise no judge who opposes murder or rape could be regarded as impartial when an accused murderer or rapist appears in his court.”
More from Courthouse News: Umphress says he “faithfully applies” the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling legalizing same-sex marriage and impartially applies the law to every litigant before his court, but he also refuses to perform same-sex weddings while continuing to perform heterosexual marriages. … He further argues that in spite of the Obergefell ruling, Texas has not amended or repealed its marriage laws against same-sex marriage and that the Supreme Court “has no power to formally amend or revoke” state law or a constitutional provision. … Umphress claims the commission’s discipline causes judges to question whether they can support charities like the Salvation Army or other Christian organizations that do not recognize same-sex marriage.