The end of June marked what is likely the temporary end to a much larger legal battle here in Texas over benefits to same-sex couples.
In a unanimous decision, the Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of two Houston taxpayers, Jack Pidgeon and Larry Hicks, in Pidgeon and Hicks v. Mayor Turner and City of Houston.
Represented and backed by Texas Values, Pidgeon and Hicks sued the City of Houston on behalf of Texas taxpayers over the decision by former Houston Mayor Annise Parker to extend benefits to same sex couples working for the city, prior to same sex marriage becoming legal in 2015.
Jonathan Saenz, President of Texas Values, aimed to clarify the law stemming from the 2015 United States Supreme Court case that legalized same sex marriage. Arguing that in Obergefell v. Hodges, though same sex marriage had been legalized, nothing in the 5-4 decision required cities, states, or other municipalities to provide benefits to those marriages as they would others.
In a unanimous decision penned by Justice Jeffrey Boyd, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that “the Supreme Court (of the United States) held in Obergefell that the Constitution requires states to license and recognize opposite-sex marriages, but it did not hold that states must provide the same publicly funded benefits to all married persons, and-unlike the fifth circuit in De Leon–it did not hold that the Texas DOMAs (Defense of Marriage Acts) are unconstitutional.”
The Court of Appeals initially ruled in favor of the City of Houston, and the Texas Supreme Court initially declined to hear the case, until it was faced with heavy conservative backlash, and a looming election season.
Texas Values and other conservative Republicans across the state are declaring victory. In a statement released through Texas Values, Saenz said, “The Texas Supreme Court rejected the City of Houston’s request to hold that the Obergefell same-sex marriage decision requires the payment of spousal benefits to homosexual spouses of city employees, and rightly so,…”
While the case is a temporary victory, particularly for the citizens of Houston, and yet another rebuke of former Houston mayor Annise Parker, the defendants have already voiced their desire to appeal the decision to a federal court.
If the case were to reach the Supreme Court of the United States at any point in the near future, it is all but certain that the current Court would vote to expand the scope of Obergefell v. Hodges and overrule this most recent decision out of Texas. With Justice Gorsuch filling the seat of the late Justice Scalia, there are likely still five votes on the court standing in in favor of the City of Houston.
Although prospects for the case in the long term remain slim, unless there is another vacancy on the US Supreme Court, the members of the Texas Supreme Court nonetheless deserve credit for doing the right thing. If the federal courts are going to abuse their authority to impose a radical agenda on Americans, our Texas courts may feel compelled to submit. But they should not feel compelled to do their dirty work for them.