AUSTIN, TEXAS — The Honorable Winston C. Hellman (D) has been a Texas lower circuit judge for twenty years. He is a self-described progressive and atheist, and in a state like Texas that makes his residency on the court’s bench quite the anomaly. Hellman says that he has managed to keep getting elected in a very red state by “keeping [his] head down” and “not making a big ol’ atheist stink everywhere about [his] lack of belief in any deity.” However, when he got news of Judge James R. DePiazza’s antics down in The Colony — an area just north of Dallas — and he decided it was “time for the goddamned gloves to come off.”
DePiazza got Hellman so infuriated by instituting a new policy in his courtroom that requires people of the same sex seeking marriage licenses to sign an affidavit acknowledging DePiazza’s opposition to same-sex marriage. In other words, if you are gay in Texas and happen to end up in DePiazza’s courtroom, you will be asked to sign a document that doesn’t forbid you from getting married, but that chastises you nonetheless for Judge DePiazza’s personal views on your behavior.
The notice that gay and lesbian couples would have to sign says among other things that “Judge DePiazza prefers to NOT conduct same-sex ceremonies, but will not decline anyone who chooses to schedule with him” and that “before, during or after the ceremony” the couple cannot even mention the term “same-sex marriage.” This idea and policy got Hellman so mad he has decided to counter DePiazza ideologically in his own courtroom.
“The unmitigated gall of that judge to completely ignore the First Amendment from soup to nuts is just outrageous,” Hellman said. “The First Amendment not only says no official of the government can foist his religion on people, it also expressly forbids your Freedom of Speech from being dampened by a government official as well, provided that speech is protected, legitimate free speech and not seditious or shouting ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater. Clearly, a judge in a court room forbidding you from using a harmless term is so unconstitutional that James Madison’s corpse just rose from the grave to facepalm itself.”
According to Judge Hellman, starting next week any couple who comes into his court seeking a marriage license that identifies as Christian will have to sign a special affidavit. The affidavit will contain the following:
Judge Hellman is an atheist. He could decide to leave his personal religious beliefs at the door, do his duty as a public servant, and then go home and cry himself to sleep about the death of the Republic, but instead he’s going to force you, the undersigned Christian Couple to kowtow to his personal religious non-beliefs. This means you must first acknowledge my belief that your God is made-up. Next, you are not allowed to mention your religion, faith, Jesus Christ, God, or anything of or pertaining to the Bible while in my courtroom either before, during, or after the ceremony.
Hellman admits that his affidavit “flies in the face” of “just about every constitutional precedent since this country’s inception” but he is “willing to be castigated later for standing up for [his] principles.” He says that “under normal circumstances” he’d “never stoop to such levels” but that “sometimes you have to fight fire with fire to make a point.” Hellman says that he’ll “of course stop forcing couple to sign [his] affidavit when an appellate court either smacks DePiazza down or DePiazza himself wakes up and smells the cultural evolution.”