Texas Supreme Court Denies Appeal on Same Sex Benefits
On Friday, the Texas Supreme Court denied a request to hear an appeal of a case brought, in 2014, by Houston taxpayers against former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, the lesbian mayor who violated the Texas Constitution by issuing same-sex benefits long before the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell same sex marriage ruling. The case Jack Pidgeon and Larry Hicks v. Mayor Sylvester Turner and City of Houston (formerly Pidgeon et al, v. Parker) began in 2013 and 2014 when Mayor Parker directed city staff to violate the Texas Constitution and specific state statutes on “benefits” by giving legal status and recognition to same-sex marriages in Texas and offering benefits to “spouses” of employees who “legally” obtained a same-sex marriage in another state. These illegal benefits were paid for by Houston taxpayers. Mayor Parker is the former Houston official that shocked the nation when she issued a subpoena for pastor sermons on sexuality issues in 2014. Texas Values President and Attorney, Jonathan Saenz, and Texas Values Action Board Member Jared Woodfill are the lawyers representing Houston taxpayers in the case. This recent decision does not end the case. Mayor Sylvester Turner was elected as Houston’s new mayor in 2015, taking over for Mayor Parker.
Texas Values President & Attorney for the Taxpayers said:
“We are shocked and disappointed that Texas taxpayers were denied their day in court by Texas’ highest court. Allowing Houston rogue Mayor Annise Parker to change state law on taxpayer funded benefits by an executive order and bypass the Texas Legislature is embarrassing and unlawful. We are thankful for the straightforward and common sense dissenting opinion of Justice John Devine, who stated that he supported this taxpayer case being heard. Just like on abortion, the U. S. Supreme Court did not rule that taxpayers should have to fund same sex benefits just because it forced Texas to redefine marriage. We are exploring all of our legal options as we move forward on this case.”
Texas Supreme Court Justice John Devine disagreed with Court’s refusal to hear the case and issued a strong dissenting opinion. The other Texas Supreme Court Justices have not commented on the case. All of the justices are Republicans. In his dissent, Justice Devine stated,
“Marriage is a fundamental right. Spousal benefits are not. Thus, the two issues are distinct, with sharply contrasting standards for review. Because the court of appeals’ decision blurs these distinctions and threatens constitutional standards long etched in our nation’s jurisprudence, I would grant review.”
“…[B]enefits 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.”
“Texas, as it allocates benefits to employees’ spouses, may recognize the differences between same- and opposite-sex spouses. To withhold this decision from the people is to undermine precedent, democracy, and the limited role of courts in our nation. It bears repeating that the Supreme Court in Obergefell embraced ‘democracy [as] the appropriate process for change, so long as that process does not abridge fundamental rights.’ I would take the Court at its word. Because the court of appeals did not, I respectfully dissent to the denial of the petition for review.”
In 2013 a state district court judge ordered Mayor Parker and the City of Houston to “cease and desist” from recognizing same sex marriage and providing benefits to same sex couples married in other states. Mayor Parker then attempted to move the case to federal court to avoid the state court decision. However, Judge Rosenthal ruled that the federal court “does not have jurisdiction over this case” and ordered that the case be sent back to state court.
In 2014 a state district court judge in Houston issued a preliminary ruling and granted a temporary injunction and ordered Houston Mayor Annise Parker and the City of Houston to immediately stop recognizing same-sex ‘marriages’ and stop providing benefits to same-sex couples ‘married’ in other states. The state judge noted that “This court does not legislative from the bench” and ordered the injunction to stay in place until a trial date.
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