HOUSTON — A state court judge in Texas on Wednesday ordered the city of Houston to stop providing benefits to the same-sex spouses of city employees, but city officials say a federal court has already ruled that the benefits can continue.
Lone Star Q reports that family court Judge Lisa Millard issued a temporary restraining order halting the benefits Wednesday in response to a request from former Harris County GOP Chair Jared Woodfill, who has filed a second lawsuit against Mayor Annise Parker and the city over her decision to extend benefits to same-sex spouses.
This is Millard’s second ruling on the issue. Last year, in response to Woodfill’s first lawsuit, she issued a similar order. However, that order was lifted in January after the city moved the case to federal court.
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In August, a federal judge moved the proceedings back to state court before being dismissed, prompting a second lawsuit by Woodfill.
Ken Upton, senior counsel at Lambda Legal, told Lone Star Q last week that the federal judge’s decision overrides any decision from a state court.
Article continues below“The U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause clearly provides that a decision based on federal law trumps a conflicting decision based on only state law,” Upton said last week. “This is a foundational principle that every first-year law student learns and is beyond question or doubt.”
A spokeswoman for Parker said the city is preparing an immediate appeal that would result in the federal court ruling taking precedence, reported the Houston Chronicle.
“As a result,” city spokeswoman Janice Evans said, “today’s action will have no impact on the status quo.”