The Supreme Court of Texas decided to hear a Texas case fighting taxpayer-funded employment benefits for gay spouses.
The openly gay mayor of the City of Houston at the time, Annise Parker, extended spousal benefits to gay employees in 2013 and 2014. Parker did so prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the same-sex marriage case, Obergefell v. Hodges. The decision by the Lone Star State’s highest court initially to not review the intermediate appellate court’s decision, left standing a ruling that cities cannot deprive married same-sex couples employee benefits that are provided to opposite sex couples.
As reported by Breitbart Texas in early October, two taxpayers from the city of Houston, Texas, filed a motion with the Supreme Court of Texas asking them to reconsider their denial of review of a case involving spousal benefits to gay employees – Pidgeon et. al v. Mayor Sylvestor Turner and City of Houston. The intermediate appellate court had found that the Court was constrained by the SCOTUS gay marriage ruling case, and a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and decided against the Houston taxpayers who filed suit to contest the use of their tax dollars for payment of these benefits.
Texas Supreme Court Justice John Devine dissented from the Texas Supreme Court’s denial of discretionary review. Breitbart Texas reported on September 4 that Devine opined in his dissent that although the U.S. Supreme Court has declared that same-sex couples have a right to marry, the Constitution of the United States does not necessarily require cities to offer benefits to same-sex spouses of employees. Justice Devine reasoned that while marriage may have been declared a fundamental right, spousal benefits are not a fundamental right. The constitutional test of strict scrutiny does not apply to employment benefits.
The plaintiff petitioners in this case urged that the Texas Supreme Court should issue an opinion that sets out that state courts should narrowly construe the same-sex marriage case of the U.S. Supreme Court because the Obergefell decision has no legal basis in the Constitution. They also argue that the opinion should be narrowly construed because of the threat to religious freedoms it imposes on those who do not support homosexuality.
Jonathan Saenz of Texas Values, and former Harris County (Houston) Republican Party Chairman Jared Woodfill, are representing taxpayers Jack Pidgeon and Larry Hicks against the City of Houston and its mayor.
“Texas deserves to have the rule of law upheld. Today’s decision is an important step in defending our state’s marriage laws and protecting taxpayers’ right to not be forced by government to fund illegal same-sex benefits,” said Jonathan Saenz, Texas Values President who is also an attorney. “We thank the Texas Supreme Court for agreeing to hear this important case, and we thank Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, Attorney General Paxton, and over 70 other elected officials and key leaders for their support in ensuring this important case was heard. We look forward to making our case directly before the Texas Supreme Court soon,” added Saenz.
Texas’ Governor and Lt. Governor, the Texas Attorney General, and a very large contingent of Texas state senators and representatives and other Texas conservatives, filed friend of the court briefs supporting the petitioner plaintiffs.
Saenz says that “this case raises important questions of federal jurisdiction and of the relationship between federal courts and state law that go well-beyond the scope of the case.”