Texas is trying to attack spousal benefits for married gay couples

Ken Paxton, far right, with Senator Ted Cruz and lieutenant governor Dan Patrick

The Texas Supreme Court will hear the state’s bid to strip benefits from married same-sex couples.

Same-sex weddings came to the Lone Star State in 2015, when the US Supreme Court ruled, with the support of the Obama administration, that same-sex marriage was a constitutional right.

However, two years later the Republican-dominated state is still resisting the move, and is battling to deny the city of Houston the right to give benefits to same-sex spouses.

Citing the SCOTUS ruling and constitutional protections for gay couples, Democrats in Houston had attempted to extend benefits to same-sex spouses of city employees, but opponents launched a legal challenge.

The Texas Supreme Court had initially dismissed the case but re-opened it this week, as Texas Republican leaders hope the court will turn back the tide of LGBT rights nationwide.

The legal challenge contends that the 2015 ruling that marriage is a constitutional right does not mean that married same-sex couples are entitled to equal employment benefits.

The lawsuit was technically filed on behalf of two taxpayers and a well-known conservative activist, but state Republicans have filed a string of supporting briefs.

Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and Attorney General Ken Paxton all signed a brief in support of the challenge.

The state leaders contend: “The Texas Constitution provides that marriage in this state ‘shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman’, and it prohibits the State or any political subdivision from ‘creating or recognizing any legal status identical or similar to marriage’.

“Texas law further prohibits the State or any political subdivision from giving effect to a ‘right or claim to any legal protection, benefit, or responsibility asserted as a result of’ any same-sex union.”

Abbot, Patrick and Paxton argue that Houston has “taken steps beyond” the 2015 court ruling, claiming that the city is “subsidizing same-sex marriages… on the same terms as traditional marriages”.

They said: “This Court should take this opportunity to remind the lower courts that all disputes involving the right to same-sex marriage have not been resolved”.

A brief signed by a string of Republican state senators argues that the Supreme Court ruling did not “create a fundamental right to engage in homosexual activity or make homosexuals a protected class”.

It adds: “Obergefell may require states to license and recognize same-sex marriages, but that does not require states to give taxpayer subsidies to same-sex couples.”