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Supreme Court leaves in place Texas ruling questioning gay spousal benefits
05 December 2017, 02:39 | Darnell Patrick
ALLIANCE DEFENDING FREEDOM
The justices left intact a June ruling by the Republican-dominated Texas Supreme Court that revived a lawsuit backed by a conservative group that advocates "biblical, Judeo-Christian values" aimed at blocking Houston from offering such benefits.
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 case will be decided by a Supreme Court that now includes Colorado Judge Neil Gorsuch. While Houston's appeal was pending, however, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned state bans on gay marriage in June 2015, ruling that they treated gay couples as second-class citizens in violation of the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection. The decision, the Texas Supreme Court said, does not necessarily require the state of Texas or its cities to extend the same benefits to state or municipal employees in same-sex marriages that it does to other married state and municipal employees.
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. So when gay marriage opponents came out of the woodwork, threatening to vote the all-Republican court off the bench if it didn't reconsider its decision - their argument being this was a great opportunity to restrict the effects of Obergefell - the Texas court took note.
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While it's a shame that the U.S. Supreme Court didn't knock down the Texas Supreme Court ruling today, this is hardly over.
The high court ruled that states must give same-sex couples the same rights as opposite-sex couples or else the state would be giving same-sex couples "disparate treatment", something forbidden under Obergefell. "We're grateful that the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed our lawsuit to go forward", Saenz said.
"Mayor Annise Parker defied the law by providing spousal benefits to same-sex couples at a time when same-sex marriage was illegal in Texas, and we intend hold the city accountable for Parker's lawless actions and her unauthorized expenditures of taxpayer money", Saenz said.
The nation's highest court will hear oral arguments on Tuesday. That will change once the Texas courts reach a decision, he said.
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