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Texas

Judge halts same-sex benefits in Houston after GOP chair files lawsuit

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

HOUSTON — A Harris County, Texas, judge issued an order Tuesday blocking the city of Houston from providing benefits to the same-sex spouses of city employees pending a hearing in January.

State District Judge Lisa Millard issued the order in response to a lawsuit filed by Harris County GOP Chair Jared Woodfill, on behalf of plaintiffs Jack Pidgeon and Larry Hicks. The order from Millard, a Republican, says the city must stop providing the benefits pending a hearing on Jan. 6.

APAnnise Parker

AP
Houston Mayor Annise Parker

Pidgeon and Hicks, who are Houston taxpayers and registered voters, brought the suit in response to Mayor Annise Parker’s decision in November to extend benefits to the same-sex spouses of city employees who are legally married in other states. The plaintiffs allege that Parker’s decision violated the Houston city charter, the state Defense of Marriage Act and the Texas Constitution.

“Plaintiffs’ claims of statutory and constitutional injury and violation of the City of Houston’s Charter, present a substantial threat that irreparable injury would result if the temporary restraining order does not issue,” Judge Millard wrote.

Janice Evans-Davis, a spokeswoman for Parker, said Tuesday night she was not aware of the order.

“In the event an order was issued today, the city will seek its immediate reversal,” Evans-Davis said.

Shortly after being re-elected to her third and final term, Parker, an out lesbian, announced in November that the city was extending health and life insurance benefits to the same-sex spouses of employees who are legally married in other states. The decision was based on Feldman’s interpretation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling striking down a portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, as well as case law from the around the country.

“Based on the right to equal protection under the law, it is unconstitutional for the city to continue to deny benefits to the same-sex spouses of our employees who are legally married,” Parker said at the time. “This change is not only the legal thing to do, it is the right, just and fair thing to do.”

In 2001, Houston voters approved a charter amendment banning domestic partner benefits. The amendment states, “Except as required by State or Federal law, the City of Houston shall not provide employment benefits, including health care, to persons other than employees, their legal spouses and dependent children.”

Parker and Feldman say the amendment allows benefits for legal spouses.

In 2003, the Texas Legislature passed the state’s DOMA, which amended the Family Code to say that same-sex marriages are void in the state and no agency or political subdivision may give effect to them. In 2005, Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman and barring the state or any political subdivision from creating or recognizing “any legal status identical or similar to marriage.”

Houston joined other cities including Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth and San Antonio in offering benefits to same-sex partners in Texas. However, Houston is the only city with a charter amendment prohibiting domestic partner benefits, which is why Parker and Feldman based the policy on recognition of marriages from other states.

The Houston GLBT Political Caucus issued a statement late Tuesday calling the lawsuit part of the Harris County GOP’s “malicious assault on equality for LGBT Texans.”

“The Harris County GOP doesn’t care how many hundreds of thousands of taxpayers dollars are wasted on this frivolous lawsuit.” said Caucus President Noel Freeman. “Heading into an election year, this isn’t about marriage or taxpayer funding of benefits, it’s about turning out social conservative voters.”

According to the caucus, Woodfill is up against a popular, well-funded opponent in the March primary. Millard is also up for re-election.

Freeman, a city employee, is one of only three who’ve signed up for the benefits, the caucus’ statement said. The judge’s order means their spouses will be unable to schedule doctor visits or have prescriptions filled. If they have received care since the benefits took effect Nov. 20, they may be forced to pay the full cost, even though the employees paid spousal premiums.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly held that simply being a taxpayer does not grant standing to sue elected officials.” Freeman said. “We believe this case will ultimately be dismissed for a lack of standing in accordance with established case law.”

Attached are copies of the lawsuit and the order, which were provided by Woodfill to Quorum Report.

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65 more reader comments:

  1. How is this even still happening?

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:33pm
  2. Thats not right thats predujice

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:33pm
  3. so much for LESS GOVERNMENT in people’s lives

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:36pm
  4. When they say that, they mean they want less liberal government, of course. They want conservatives to have complete control.

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:43pm
  5. Why is ANYONE surprised by any of this!

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 8:02pm
  6. Kurenai... define "less 'liberal' government"...

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 9:03pm
  7. Fucker needs a backbone.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:36pm
  8. Texas is getting there but not completely. All these people are doing is postponing the inevitable and wasting time. They will not stop progress with fear or ignorance. That’s a fact.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:37pm
  9. Is there not Federal law against this crap now?

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:37pm
  10. Texas sucks

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:37pm
  11. Shameful

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:38pm
  12. What a waste of time and money!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:38pm
  13. Lonnie, Texas is in better condition than most states today. Think before you speak.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:39pm
  14. They just took a step back though.

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:44pm
  15. So, you think 27 percent child poverty is better? You think that one of the highest drop out rates is better? You think that one of the states with the most jobs at low level wages is better? What you meant to say was "Texas is in better condition for white republicans than most states". There is NOTHING true in your comment and it ignores the ills going on in Texas.

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:48pm
  16. financially speaking, yes taxas is doing well, but there are numerous other things aboput it that sucks ass, you are entitled to your own opinions, however facts are facts, and since they are so overly conservative it will end up biting them in the ass. drop out rates, teen pregnancies, gay rights,(also known as human right), high school grades, test scores, the list goes on and on. no one is hating texas because its a bad place to live, but the views and ways they go about laws and regulations is fucking retarded, one sided, and against FEDERAL laws. they just need to catch up with the times is all.

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 8:47pm
  17. Its almost 2014 not 1914! Wow makes me kinda sick how fucked up reality is .

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:41pm
  18. Ugh.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:42pm
  19. They’re on the wrong side of history…. Not really any different from the people who claimed that allowing interracial marriages would lead to bestiality…

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:43pm
  20. Ummm... It's TX.

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:46pm
  21. Doucebags

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:43pm
  22. GO give this man a piece of your mind! https://www.facebook.com/jaredwoodfill Here’s the one who got this whole thing to overturn and wait. He thinks it’s a victory.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:46pm
  23. One step forward, three steps back.

    As long as the GOP is in office my home state will never reach full equality among all Americans.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:47pm
  24. Oh good, another court fight. Forward!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:49pm
  25. It’s Texas…they’re the lowest in education human civil rights for non whites non Christians non straights non males and non republicans. So I’m not shocked.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:50pm
  26. Bitch!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:54pm
  27. Shame shame on texas

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:55pm
  28. not good….

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:56pm
  29. Only in backward Texas!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:58pm
  30. Its facys texas is one of the most racial conservative states there is and I’m a lesbian living there today I rlly don’t give a fuck got made me and made machines therefore I shall travel to marry and xome back and still live my life the way I please I was baptized Christian and if people wanna live in the old days that’s on the but I’m living for today and wat tomorrow will bring

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 7:58pm
  31. Evil this close to Christmas sick of homophobia ! Time for Regime change in USA!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 8:00pm
  32. can I file a lawsuit against GOP texan politicians and can you stop their pay until the lawsuit is over?

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 8:01pm
  33. UNCONSTITUTIONAL FEDERALLY DUMB ASS

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 8:02pm
  34. Texas is the WORST state in the union!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 8:04pm
  35. Indiana is trying awfully for that title!

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 10:07pm
  36. Oh fuck Texas. I was born and raised there and got the fuck outta there as soon as I could.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 8:05pm
  37. lol same here!!!! stupid backward views and overly conservative beliefs.

    Replied on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 8:40pm
  38. What the fuck is so hard for these idiots to understand?! Discrimination is illegal and immoral!!!!!! Holy shit!! Is there an asshat of the year award somewhere we don’t know about?!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 8:05pm
  39. Houston to be specific.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 8:06pm
  40. bullshit

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 8:07pm
  41. People like the plantiffs make me sick.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 8:10pm
  42. Fuck ‘em! We’re winning. They’re a bunch of outdated trolls!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 8:14pm
  43. Well done, Texas…. Well done. (sarcasm)

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 8:21pm
  44. Surprised Texas ever allowed same-sex benefits at all. She needs a Gay hairdresser badly. I don’t trust any woman that does her own hair (Steel Magnolias).

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 8:24pm
  45. FUCK Texas and Texans!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 8:27pm
  46. Sick just plain stupid

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 8:27pm
  47. Idiot chair. Maybe Matt Schulz can get a job there also

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 8:31pm
  48. Jesus Christ, is this state ever fucked up.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 8:33pm
  49. go get em GIRL!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 8:35pm
  50. Texas needs to be boned of the map

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 8:38pm
  51. as being from texas my self, i recently moved to california for this exact reason right here. as much as love the state, i hate what they do and how they go about laws rules and regulations. the only reason they put certain laws in effect is they say its against religious beliefs, but what ever happened to separation of church and state, you remember that one thing that is in our CONSTITUTION!!!!! certain UNALIENABLE RIGHTS TO LIFE LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS!!! i hate to say it but texas will be the last state to recognize same sex benefits and gay marriage. my heart goes out to those that are affected by this unfair and one sided ruling.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 8:39pm
  52. Seems it’s like one step forwards, and two steps back…Everytime Democrats try to do the right thing, there’s some idiot, bigoted Republican that has to ruin it.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 8:42pm
  53. There are Liberal Progressives fighting the good fight against TEA Party Evangelical Christian Right Republicans. We could use support from other Progressive Liberals that love out of State. Instead, I have read a lot of negative comments toward all Texans from other out of State Liberal Progressives. Things will get better, even in Texas. The struggle continues…

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 8:44pm
  54. *live

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 8:45pm
  55. Twatwaffles.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 8:56pm
  56. Tex-Ass, are we really surprised by this?

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 9:07pm
  57. It wouldn’t suprise me if right wing Christians cause a war in this country sometime during our lifetime.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 9:16pm
  58. What ever happen to we the people. All the people

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 9:23pm
  59. Let’s halt the benefits of the GOP chair until the whole thing is resolved. Seems only fair.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 9:33pm
  60. Scumbag

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 9:36pm
  61. Crazy hate filled Texas

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 9:46pm
  62. If I lived in TexASS, i’d get ta hell out of there so fast i’d cause a windstorm..UGH!!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 9:57pm
  63. I live here in Texas and we can’t all just get up and move. We have lives here and we will fight otherwise they will never change. Leaving isn’t the answer. Fighting for equality is

    Posted on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 11:07pm
  64. As a citizen of Harris County, this saddens me. :c

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 12:38am