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City of Houston Ordered to Pay Attorneys’ Fees in Same-Sex Benefits Case

Judge gavel black and white (620-240)

This week, a federal judge ordered that the City of Houston must pay over $20,000 in attorney’s fees in a historic same-sex benefits case that the City has been losing for quite some time. Last month, this judge handed down his initial ruling against the City of Houston, and Texas Values and Houston taxpayers scored a major win when a federal district judge rejected the City of Houston’s efforts to transfer a lawsuit over the illegal benefits it provides to same-sex couples into federal court. U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt ordered the City of Houston to pay more than $20,000 in attorneys’ fees as a penalty for its meritless court filings. The fee award will be paid to the lawyers who have been challenging the city’s unlawful same-sex benefits policy, which include Texas Values attorney Jonathan Saenz and Houston attorney Jared Woodfill.

“Nothing else has gotten the attention of the City of Houston for breaking the law. Hopefully this will. There are costs and consequences for breaking the law,” said Jonathan Saenz, one of the lawyers for the Houston taxpayers in the case.

The case dates back to 2013, when former Mayor Annise Parker defied state law and ordered the City of Houston to recognize same-sex “marriages” from other states—even though Texas law prohibited same-sex marriage and the U.S. Supreme Court had not yet ruled that same-sex marriage was a constitutional right. Houston taxpayers Jack Pidgeon and Larry Hicks promptly sued Mayor Parker and the City of Houston in state court and asked the state judiciary to enjoin this unlawful policy.

Taxpayers Pidgeon and Hicks initially were victorious in this case in 2014, and secured an injunction from a state trial court that forbade the city to provide spousal employment benefits to same-sex couples. But a state appellate court reversed that injunction after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex marriage was a constitutional right. Pidgeon and Hicks appealed to the Texas Supreme Court, and the state supreme court ruled last June, in a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Jeffrey S. Boyd, that Pidgeon and Hicks could proceed with their lawsuit against the city.

On Dec. 4, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the City of Houston’s request to review the case.

Since this case began, more than 70 elected officials—including Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton—have weighed in and filed amicus briefs supporting the plaintiffs, Pidgeon and Hicks.

BACKGROUND:

U.S. Supreme Court Rejects City of Houston’s Request To Review Same-sex Benefits Case (Dec. 4, 2017): https://txvalues.org/2017/12/04/victory-u-s-supreme-court-rejects-the-city-of-houstons-request-to-review-same-sex-benefits-case

Texas Supreme Court Rules Against City of Houston On Same-Sex Benefits Case (June 30, 2017): https://txvalues.org/2017/06/30/supreme-court-rules-against-city-of-houston-on-same-sex-case

Texas Values Applauds Texas Supreme Court in Taking Up Same-sex Benefits Case (Jan. 20, 2017): https://txvalues.org/2017/01/20/texas-values-applauds-texas-supreme-court-in-taking-up-same-sex-benefits-case

Elected Officials, Candidates, Leaders Call for Texas Supreme Court to Hear Houston Same-sex Benefits Case (Oct. 17, 2016): https://txvalues.org/2016/10/17/elected-officials-candidates-leaders-call-for-texas-supreme-court-to-hear-houston-same-sex-benefits-case

Texas Supreme Court Denies Appeal on Same-sex Benefits (Sept. 6, 2016): https://txvalues.org/2016/09/06/texas-supreme-court-denies-appeal-on-same-sex-benefits

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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