Ex-judicial panelists: Abbott ousted them over gay marriage

HOUSTON (AP) — Two former members of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct said they believe Texas Gov. Greg Abbott removed them from the panel because he disagreed with them over a same-sex marriage case.

Abbott, a Republican, had appointed Amy Suhl and Maricela Alvarado to the commission in June of last year but pulled their names when it came time for the Texas Senate to confirm them nine months later. They told the Houston Chronicle that they were told the governor had simply decided to proceed in a different direction, but they said they believe he ousted them because they voted to warn a Waco judge who officiates over opposite-sex marriages but refuses to perform same-sex marriages.

Suhl recorded a meeting with Abbott’s staff and a later telephone call. The recordings, which were reviewed by the Chronicle, indicate that Abbott aides were advising her to act with Abbott’s views in mind.

As with other Texas Republican leaders, Abbott champions the rights of Texans to practice their faith on the job and in public service. That has conflicted with the rights of gay, lesbian and transgender Texans.

Abbott spokesman John Wittman said all decisions on appointments “are made based solely on merit.”

Suhl is a retired information technology executive and Alvarado is a retired Army lieutenant colonel.

It’s unclear how the removal of the two commissioners affected the final decision in their case. However, in an action made public on Monday, the commission issued a warning to Dianne Hensley, a justice of the peace for McLennan County Precinct 1, for refusing to officiate weddings of persons of the same sex while performing opposite-sex weddings. The warning is one of the lesser disciplinary actions the commission can take.

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