Because Republican state leaders can't arrive at the conclusion on their own that marriage equality in turn means marriage-benefits equality, they are asking the Texas Supreme Court to please clear up that complicated legal issue for them instead. Even after the high court already decided once that it doesn't want to hear the case.
The case arises out of a lawsuit former Houston Mayor Annise Parker faced back in 2013 after she decided that same-sex married couples, who were legally wed in other states, should be entitled to city employee benefits just like every other legally married couple. Predictably, two conservative Houstonians, Larry Hicks and Pastor Jack Pigeon, apparently believed that was such a preposterous policy that they have been fighting against it for now going on three years — even after Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark 2015 federal Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage.
Some great news Friday for those dogged anti-LGBTQ fighters: The state's highest GOP leaders, including Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton, appear to agree with them.
On Friday, the trio filed an amicus brief with the Texas high court, asking the justices to reconsider hearing the case and to not expand marriage equality to employee benefits.
"While the U.S. Supreme Court did recognize a right to same-sex marriage, there are a host of issues in that area of the law that remain unresolved. I applaud Governor Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Patrick for their leadership in asking that state courts give serious consideration to these weighty, unresolved questions,” Paxton said in a statement.
In September, the justices denied to take up Hicks and Pigeon's crusade against same-sex marriage benefits on the basis that Obergefell v. Hodges already settled the marriage equality squabble — which would naturally include marriage-benefits equality.
Justice John Devine, however, disagreed, saying that Hicks and Pigeon's argument against same-sex marraige benefits was legitimate because the state needed to "encourage procreation." (Seriously.) Here's his argument in his own words:
"The State may well have believed that offering certain benefits to opposite-sex couples would encourage procreation within marriage. After all, benefits such as health insurance provide financial security as couples decide whether to have a child. An opposite-sex marriage is the only marital relationship where children are raised by their biological parents. In any other relationship, the child must be removed from at least one natural parent, perhaps two, before being adopted by her new parent(s). This does not diminish any child’s inherent dignity, a fact the City presumably recognizes by extending benefits to their employees’ children regardless of the employees’ marital status. But it does explain why the State might choose to direct resources to opposite-sex couples."
Looks like Abbott and company have got at least one friend up there willing to hear them out.
Hicks and Pigeon petitioned the Texas Supreme Court to rehear their case earlier this month, with amicus briefs such as this one from anti-LGBTQ cohorts pouring in since then.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.