Justices reject Houston appeal over benefits for gay spouses

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In that decision, the Texas Supreme Court threw out a lower court ruling that said spouses of gay and lesbian public employees are entitled to government-subsidized marriage benefits, and it unanimously ordered a trial court to reconsider the case.

In 2013, while Annise Parker, an out lesbian, was mayor of Houston, she offered employee benefits to same-sex spouses, causing gay marriage opponents to sue.

Houston appealed, arguing that the U.S. Supreme Court needed to step in to protect the integrity of its 2015 ruling establishing a right to same-sex marriage.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a decision made earlier this year by the Texas Supreme Court, opening the door for the state of Texas and its municipalities to potentially limit benefits and privileges extended to couples in same-sex marriages in the state. While Houston's appeal was pending, however, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned state bans on gay marriage in June 2015, ruling that they treated gay couples as second-class citizens in violation of the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection.

- The Supreme Court will hear argument tomorrow in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission tomorrow Equality Case Files has all the documents from the case here. Houston has continued to provide benefits to all of its married employees through-out the pending litigation. Such a ruling again could be appealed to the nation's top court.

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The Texas court reversed its earlier decision to stay out of the case after coming under pressure from Gov. Greg Abbott and other leading Republicans. In the Arlene's Flowers case, similar to Masterpiece Cakeshop, the Court took no action.

The ruling returned the lawsuit to a Houston district court to determine whether the U.S. Supreme Court's marriage ruling applies to spousal benefits provided by Houston.

That does not mean Houston can "constitutionally deny benefits to its employees' same-sex spouses", the court added, but the issue must now be resolved "in light of Obergefell".

Lawyers for Pidgeon and Hicks told the state Supreme Court that the Obergefell ruling should be interpreted narrowly and did not require states to give taxpayer subsidies to same-sex couples any more than the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion required states to subsidize abortions.

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