Is the GOP stripping benefits from straight couples to protest same-sex marriage?

AP Photo/Cliff Owen

Even by Lone Star standards, the Conservative Republicans of Texas (CRT) is extreme.

Designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the CRT is led by Steve Hotze, who likes to call gay people “homofascists” and said the Supreme Court justices favoring marriage equality “want to let sodomites queer our country.”

So it’s unsurprising that CRT is now trying to get a Texas court to force the City of Houston to stop offering marriage benefits to its same-sex municipal employees.

The reasoning – if it can be called that – is that even with the Supreme Court decision, the city is under no obligation to offer benefits to same-sex couples for two reasons.

The first reason is that there’s a state law that bans granting same-sex couples such rights, even though that law was passed before the Obergefell ruling made marriage equality a national right.

The second reason is that CRT and the plaintiffs in the case “have suffered a ‘particularized injury’ because they are devout Christians who have been compelled by the mayor’s unlawful edict to subsidize homosexual relationships that they regard as immoral and sinful, in violation of their sincere religions beliefs.”

In other words, they don’t like marriage equality, so they shouldn’t pay taxes to support it.

The case would seem pretty laughable were it not for the fact that the judge hearing it, Lisa Millard, has been sympathetic to CRT’s arguments in the past.

Millard twice issued injunctions preventing Houston from offering domestic partner benefits to city workers in same-sex relationships. A state court overruled Millard following the Supreme Court’s marriage decision.

CRT has had success in the past. The group led the campaign to overturn Houston’s anti-discrimination ordinance. Perhaps emboldened by its past victory, CRT is not only asking to stop marriage benefits, but to have the city repay everything it has spent on them so far.

As for that pesky Supreme Court ruling, CRT has a way around that too: stop offering benefits to any married city employee.

“The City of Houston could withdraw spousal benefits from all city employees tomorrow without violating the Constitution, and without violating anything in Obergefell and Pavan,” they helpfully offered.

Pavan is the Supreme Court ruling in favor of LGBTQ adoption rights.

Crazy ideas are nothing new to Hotze, who is a medical doctor. In addition to equating LGBTQ rights as part of a “satanic movement,” he also holds bizarre medical views. For instance, Hotze believes that birth control pills interfere with women’s pheronomes, “making them less attractive to men.”

After he somehow appeared on CBS’s Early Show, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists wrote the network a blistering letter, blasting Hotze for “completely erroneous” statements. They also said his “self-serving performance amounted to a thinly veiled infomercial for his practice and book.”

Of course, just because Hotze is nutty and has been described as a quack doesn’t mean he isn’t influential. He’s a powerhouse in GOP circles.

Forbes has described him as “the architect of a successful sub-party strategy that dismantled Houston’s relatively moderate, business-oriented Republican establishment” by forming a coalition that was able to “to finally seize the state’s best-organized, most powerful local Republican organization.”

Under normal circumstances, the lawsuit would just be a nuisance. But with Hotze’s power and Millard’s track record, the circumstances aren’t normal. We may know more in a few months. That’s when Millard is up for re-election; she’s running as a Republican.

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