Texas Supreme Court: Married Gays Have No 'Inherent Right' To Government Benefits

Kristopher Drake
July 1, 2017

The Texas Supreme Court has ordered a trial to reconsider a case regarding benefits to public employees in a same-sex marriage.

In a 24-page opinion Justice Jeffrey Boyd wrote the ruling that stems from the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges case does not fully address the rights to marriage benefits.

Woodfill said he intends to ask for another injunction preventing the city from providing same-sex benefits and requiring Houston to "claw back" benefits paid to employees' same-sex spouses before Obergefell.

The defendant in the case, the city of Houston, could appeal the issue directly to the Supreme Court, but will still offer the benefits for now, as it has for years, according to Dallas News.

Such a decision makes no sense if you understand the Texas Supreme Court as a court that is trying to resolve legal cases in a timely and efficient manner - but it does make ideal sense if you understand its justices as political actors.

"We are not aware of any other case like this in the nation, which is why today's action by the Supreme Court and defeat for the City of Houston is highly significant".

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said of the ruling that he was "extremely pleased that the Texas Supreme Court recognized that Texas law is still important when it comes to marriage".


Jim Obergefell speaks at a press conference at the state capitol in Austin, Texas, following the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality in June 2015.

The ruling also appeared to angle for the issue of same-sex marriage to be revisited at the US Supreme Court level, which may lose its pro-LGBT majority if more conservatives are appointed by President Trump.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer advocacy organizations condemned the decision as undercutting marriage equality.

The case was taken by two men who objected to Houston's decision to comply with the Obergefell decision because they are "devout Christians who have been compelled by the mayor's unlawful edict to subsidize homosexual relationships that they regard as immoral and sinful". But the state's highest civil court reversed course in January after receiving an outpouring of letters opposing the decision.

The Court sent the appeals court ruling back to the lower court for review. And the Texas court reached this frivolous conclusion in an unanimous opinion. The court agreed to hear it after coming under intense pressure from Gov. Greg Abbott and the state's other top Republican politicians.

The city did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but plaintiffs' attorney Jared Woodfill cheered the decision as "a huge win".

Other reports by Ligue1talk

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