Texas Attorney General sues US government over same-sex spouse benefit

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed a lawsuit against the US Department of Labour after it extended family benefits to same-sex spouses.

The federal government revised the definition of spouse to include same-sex partners in states where gay marriage is legal. It ensures that state employees family leave are extended to all married couples. It allows employees to take time off for family emergencies.

Texas does not allow same-sex marriage, but Texan federal employers would be obligated to provide such benefits to couples who wed in another state. Attorney General Paxton’s lawsuit holds that it is an infringement on Texas’s constitution, which he says cannot recognize gay marriage. He wants states to be able to ignore federal laws on the matter, in favour of their own.

He said: “This lawsuit is about defending the sovereignty of our state, and we will continue to protect Texas from the unlawful overreach of the federal government.

“Texans have clearly defined the institution of marriage in our state, and attempts by the Obama Administration to disregard the will of our citizens through the use of new federal rules is unconstitutional and an affront to the foundations of federalism.”

Neel Lane, an attorney representing gay couples fighting for marriage in the state, told the Dallas Morning News: “It appears Atty. Gen. Paxton has decided to follow his predecessor’s practice of wasting taxpayer money by filing hopeless politically-motivated lawsuits against the federal government that are doomed to fail. In this case, Paxton is persecuting law-abiding citizens who simply happen to be gay or lesbian.

“[This] tactic may work in the short term, but eventually we will all condemn his actions for what they are.”

In February, he tried to have the marriage of a lesbian couple voided as “medically fragile” because one of the women had ovarian cancer.

Last year, Texan lawmakers filed more anti-gay bills than any other state.