|Trump with Texas anti-gay Christofacist extremist Robert Jeffress|
And so it begins. Many in the LGBT community had worried that Trump's election would embolden anti-gay Republicans to begin trying to strip away LGBT rights - something that seemingly meant nothing to "friends" who voted for Trump. Now, the Texas GOP has pressured the Texas Supreme Court to take a case considering whether or not same sex spouses of employees of the City of Houston can have their spousal rights rescinded. If the Texas GOP prevails, the spouses of gay employees will not receive insurance and other benefits enjoyed by their heterosexual co-workers' spouses. And, if this happens in Texas, other anti-gay states will surely seek to follow suit. Here are highlights from the Dallas Morning News:
The Texas Supreme Court said Friday it will decide whether the husbands and wives of gay city employees in Houston deserve spousal benefits, a surprising and rare about-face spurred by pressure from Gov. Greg Abbott and dozens of other top Republicans.
"No city employee — whether heterosexual or homosexual — has a 'fundamental right' to receive employee benefits for his or her spouse," reads the lawsuit against Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. "It is perfectly constitutional for the government to offer benefits or subsidies to some married couples while withholding those benefits from others."
Last September, Texas' justices declined to hear the case, just months after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. But Jack Pidgeon and Larry Hicks, a pastor and CPA from Houston, asked the court to reconsider, arguing that legalizing gay marriage does not mean cities must require the spouses of LGBT city employees to get the same benefits extended to heterosexual husbands and wives.
Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton agreed, writing a "friend of the court" brief that argued extending spousal benefits is separate from legalizing marriage for same-sex couples.
"[The U.S. Supreme Court's] judgment does not include a command that public employers like the City of Houston take steps beyond recognizing same-sex marriage," Abbott, Patrick and Paxton wrote. "Steps like subsidizing same-sex marriages [through the allocation of employee benefits] on the same terms as traditional marriages."The GOP leaders filed their brief in late October. Earlier that month, dozens of state lawmakers and religious leaders also urged the court to reconsider its decision.
The court will hear oral arguments in the case March 1.
While their ruling will be narrow — it will apply only to city employees in Houston — the decision will either reinforce the rights of gay Americans or chip away at their victory in gaining the right to marry.
In their last brief, lawyers for Houston argue that denying the same benefits to gay couples that you extend to heterosexual couples is unconstitutional. They added that while Abbott, Patrick and Paxton claim spousal benefits shouldn't be guaranteed to government employees, the state of Texas has extended this right to state employees since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in 2015.