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Federal judge refuses to halt same-sex benefits for Houston city employees

Friday, January 3, 2014

HOUSTON — The same-sex spouses of Houston city employees will keep their benefits for now, after a federal judge on Thursday denied a request for a restraining order that would have halted them.

U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal

U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal

U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal considered the request after the case was moved from state court to federal court by the defendants — Mayor Annise Parker and the city of Houston.

Harris County GOP Chair Jared Woodfill, on behalf of taxpayers Jack Pidgeon and Larry Hicks, sued Parker and the city in December after she extended benefits to the same-sex spouses of city employees who are legally married in other states.

State District Judge Lisa Millard, a Republican, issued a restraining order halting the benefits, before the city moved the case to federal court, where Woodfill sought another restraining order. Following a lengthy hearing on Thursday afternoon in Houston, Rosenthal denied the request.

“It was a big win today,” said Lambda Legal’s Ken Upton, who attended the hearing. “The judge demonstrated to us that she’s not inclined to do kneejerk things like were happening in state court.”

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Upton represents gay city employees who are plaintiffs in a separate lawsuit seeking to preserve the benefits. Upton said at today’s hearing, Rosenthal asked him to submit a brief in the next week about whether he thinks the two cases should be combined.

Upton said Woodfill’s lawsuit, known as Pidgeon v. Parker, will remain in federal court for now. The judge did not rule on Woodfill’s request to remand the case to state court, but she did lay out a briefing schedule before the next scheduled hearing in late February. Although today was a victory, Upton said his clients remain in limbo.

“They’ve won today, but only to come back again,” he said. “At some point the thing they face is the lack of being able to do any planning, because they don’t know if tomorrow they’re going to lose their benefits.”

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37 more reader comments:

  1. Good to hear considering most of tejas frowns on anything same-sex.

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 3:48pm
  2. Same sex marriage issue is being heard before a Federal court for Texas in February!!! I could not believe it either. We can just pray

    Replied on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 4:48pm
  3. Falling like dominos.

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 3:49pm
  4. Bravo…thanks for your courage!!!

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 3:50pm
  5. Good to hear this. This is my hometown. One step closer, hopefully one day my gf and I can get married.

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 3:50pm
  6. The opposition might as well give it a rest. They won’t win federally.

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 3:51pm
  7. This will happen in every state as every judge knows the law.

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 3:52pm
  8. Good

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 3:53pm
  9. Waiting for the supreme court to get tough with Utah and the church.

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 3:54pm
  10. Thank you…since I will be moving to Houston in June

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 3:55pm
  11. Texas is opening its eyes.

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 3:56pm
  12. Love my city!

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 4:00pm
  13. Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 4:00pm
  14. Bravo moving forward in 20141

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 4:02pm
  15. If you are or support Gay , Bi-sexual, Transgender Lesbian, Asexual and Pan-sexual Rights, Set your profile picture to this Black Square in Protest of Facebook allowing anti Gay Pages to Torment Individuals

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 4:03pm
  16. good jub

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 4:04pm
  17. Bravo!!!

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 4:06pm
  18. …good news…

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 4:13pm
  19. Gd

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 4:23pm
  20. YAHOO!!!

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 4:26pm
  21. Can this judge get rid of Perry and Cruz?!?!?

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 4:39pm
  22. The next step is for same-sex couples and families to sue for civil marriage equality based on the US Constitution’s guarantee of equal rights for all and on the full faith and credit clause.

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 4:43pm
  23. I will gladly take any victory as a win. Worry about what it means after I am done celebrating this victory.

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 4:51pm
  24. det with the fckn program same sex marriage legal in the darkness of Africa for the last 12 or soears y

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 4:52pm
  25. Good for her!!! Thank you for your support!

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 4:53pm
  26. yay, love you

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 4:58pm
  27. Good!

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 5:06pm
  28. What now? All the Mormon’s moved to Houston? Seriously, good for that Federal Judge…she did the right thing.

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 5:11pm
  29. Wonderful.

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 5:21pm
  30. < claps hands >

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 5:25pm
  31. Wow wife more Judges and politicians like her Texas may just join the real world! Vote for Wendy keep the momentum going.

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 5:34pm
  32. Way to go judge. You know equality must be the rule. To deny benefits to same sex spouses is just plain wrong.

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 6:15pm
  33. Doing the correct option is a good thing !!!

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 6:38pm
  34. Colorado only has civil unions…..i hear that the people here are vying for marriage soon…..

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 7:02pm
  35. Excellent!!

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 7:07pm
  36. Yehhh Htown equality

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 8:49pm
  37. Ekle Son Durumlari Begen Hemen Duvarindayim B| <3 :) :D <3 B| Ekle <3 :) ? 5

    Posted on Friday, January 3, 2014 at 9:20pm