Supreme Court Lets Stand Texas Ruling That Could Undermine Marriage Equality

Supreme Court Lets Stand Texas Ruling That Could Undermine Marriage Equality

The controversy arose in June when the Texas Supreme Court revived a lawsuit that sought to eliminate benefits offered to the same-sex spouses of city of Houston employees, ruling that the right to a marriage license did not automatically entitle same-sex couples to spousal insurance benefits.

The case began in 2013 when Jack Pidgeon and Larry Hicks sued the city of Houston after the city's mayor gave municipal spousal benefits, health and life insurance, to same-sex married couples. While that case was going through the state court system, Obergefell (the U.S. Supreme Court case making gay marriage the law of the land) happened.

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The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a decision made earlier this year by the Texas Supreme Court, opening the door for the state of Texas and its municipalities to potentially limit benefits and privileges extended to couples in same-sex marriages in the state.

The Texas court merely said that the decision in Obergefell v. Hodges did not answer or resolve all marriage-related questions, including whether governments must provide the same benefits to same-sex couples that are provided to opposite-sex couples, the lawyers argued. "We reverse the court of appeals' judgment, vacate the trial court's temporary injunction order".

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The justice said although Floyd's framing of the arguments in his petition undercut his request for review, in any other context "courts reviewing claims in circumstances like these must be steadfast in identifying, investigating, and correcting for improper bias in the jury selection process".

Amid the litigation, Houston has continued to provide benefits to all of its married employees.

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Pidgeon and Hicks, also backed by state Republican leaders, argued that the benefits violated the Texas constitution and state and local laws against same-sex marriage.

The Texas court reversed its earlier decision to stay out of the case after coming under pressure from Gov. Greg Abbott and other leading Republicans.

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In a rare reversal, the state Supreme Court relented, accepting the case and eventually ruling that there is no established right to spousal benefits in same-sex marriages. The high court does not usually comment when rejecting an appeal. In the Arlene's Flowers case, similar to Masterpiece Cakeshop, the Court took no action. The lawsuit was then forced to go back to the Houston District Court to determine that issue - whether Obergefell applies to spousal benefits for gays.

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