The Texas First Court of Appeals received its only Democratic justice on Saturday when Terry Jennings resigned from the Republican Party and changed his party affiliation.
Jennings told the Houston Press that he began to seriously question his Republican Party membership after holding a same-sex wedding in January.
Justice Terry Jennings(Contributed Photo)
It wasn’t the first time he’d considered switching parties. Jennings has said that the Republican Party has become more and more conservative, making life in the party more difficult for you and other moderates. His high school and college age kids also asked him if he was still a Republican, he said.
He wasn’t sure. Then he decided to host a same-sex wedding and some people in his party questioned that move.
“That’s when I started thinking, ‘Well, maybe I’m not at the right party then,'” Jennings told the Houston Press.
“Today’s Republican Party has chosen a dark path that I cannot go,” Jennings said when he announced his change of party at a fundraising dinner for the Harris County Democratic Party on Saturday.
Jennings’ move makes him the only Democrat on the first nine court appeals court in Houston. The court is hearing appeals against civil and non-death sentences originating in Harris County and nine surrounding counties. Democrats hold 12 out of 73 seats in the state’s 14 appellate courts.
Jennings joined the court in 2001 and was re-elected in 2012. He told the Houston Press that he was unsure if he would seek re-election after his term ends in 2018.
Jennings said he was once a proud member of the Republican Party and always considered himself a conservative judge who applied the law as written.
“It’s just a party that I wasn’t comfortable with anymore,” he told the Houston Press. “You have heard the common phrase a thousand times: I have not left my party; my party has left me. And it is true.”
Jennings said the political climate contributed to his decision to officially join the Democratic Party, adding that his decision was neither an endorsement nor a reprimand for a presidential candidate. Ethics rules prevent judges from endorsing candidates.
Jennings received a standing ovation from the crowd of fundraisers, Harris County Democratic Party leader Lane Lewis told Houston Press.
Lewis said that all Republicans unsure of supporting an “imploding” party are welcome to join the Democrats as long as they support values like diversity, equality and representative government.