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Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Patrick, & Atty. Gen. Paxton: Same-Sex Benefits Case Needs Review

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Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, and Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a joint legal amicus brief in support of petitioners, Houston taxpayers Pastor Jack Pidgeon and Larry Hicks, in the Texas Supreme Court case of Jack Pidgeon and Larry Hicks v. Mayor Sylvester Turner and City of Houston, on the issue of taxpayer funded benefits for same sex couples. The Court is being asked to review the case from the lower appellate court. Jonathan Saenz of Texas Values and Jared Woodfill are the attorneys representing Pastor Jack Pidgeon and Larry Hicks in this monumental case.

The brief makes it clear that Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Patrick, and Atty. Gen. Paxton are urging the Texas Supreme Court to issue specific instructions on these important issues of law.

The brief states: “Whether or not this Court reinstates the temporary injunction, it should not send this case back to the lower courts without providing a clarifying instruction that (1) While Obergefell obligates the State to grant and recognize same-sex marriages, it does not bind state courts to resolve all other claims in favor of the right to same-sex marriage; and (2) De Leon binds executive branch officials but does not affect the authority of Texas courts to apply any provision of the Texas Constitution and Family Code to the extent doing so is not inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s judgment in Obergefell.”

The brief states Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Patrick, and Atty. Gen. Paxton “have an acute interest in understanding with precision how federal court decisions impact the state laws they enforce, enact, and defend. They have a concomitant interest in encouraging state courts to carefully and correctly construe the effect of federal court decisions on Texas law. This case raises important questions of federal jurisdiction and of the relationship between federal courts and state law. For these reasons, [they] respectfully submit this amicus curiae brief.”

The brief states: “Because none of the questions before the trial court are completely resolved by Obergefell’s judgment, the trial court on remand must do more than simply tip its hat in Obergefell’s direction and enter judgment for the defendants…Obergefell does not, on its own, resolve this case.”

The brief also states: “But the existence of a federal court judgment obligating States to grant and recognize same-sex mar-riages does not automatically dictate the outcome of a case like this one, which raises a related but different constitutional question involving municipal employee benefits.”

Pastor Jack Pidgeon and Larry Hicks, Houston taxpayers, formally asked the Texas Supreme Court to reconsider hearing their case against former Mayor Annise Parker (and the City of Houston), 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, as well as 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.

The City of Houston appealed the ruling and the intermediate appeals court reversed the decision after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down marriage laws between one man and one woman. But Texas also has specific laws that only for tax funded benefits to be permissible for spouses of the opposite sex, an issue that was not before the U.S. Supreme Court. Texas Values asked for the Texas Supreme Court to review the intermediate appellate court decision but they refused this request without a public court hearing.

Over 70 state leaders and other elected officials have also filed a legal amicus brief supporting a review of this case at the Texas Supreme Court. See that brief here.

Jonathan Saenz stated, “The highest leaders of our great state understand the urgent need for a hearing of this case, specifically for the sake of clarity in law and the authority of our state laws, our state courts and the integrity of our system of justice for all Texans. The Texas Supreme Court should now see, without a doubt, that this is one of the most important cases for them to review. We thank Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Patrick, and Atty. Gen. Paxton for their support and we urge the Texas Supreme Court to take up this case and these issues immediately.”

On the filing of the brief, Attorney General Paxton said, “My office had the privilege of defending Texas’ marriage laws in Fifth Circuit. While the US 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.”  

Mayor Parker is the former Houston official that shocked the nation when she issued a subpoena for pastor sermons on sexuality issues in 2014. Houston’s current mayor, Sylvester Turner, has continued to defend these unlawful actions in court.

About Texas Values
Texas Values is a nonprofit organization dedicated to standing for faith, family, and freedom in Texas. More information is available at txvalues.org.

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