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Supreme Court declines to hear Texas same-sex marriage benefits case

05 December 2017

The Texas court made its ruling last June in a case involving the city of Houston, which was sued by a coalition of conservatives to block a plan put forth in 2013 to offer spousal benefits to municipal employees in same-sex marriages.

The U.S. Supreme Court's action came without dissent or comment.

The case will now proceed in a Texas state court. While Houston's appeal was pending, however, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned state bans on gay marriage in June 2015, ruling that they treated gay couples as second-class citizens in violation of the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection.

Amid the litigation, Houston has continued to provide benefits to all of its married employees.

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The Texas court merely said that the decision in Obergefell v. Hodges did not answer or resolve all marriage-related questions, including whether governments must provide the same benefits to same-sex couples that are provided to opposite-sex couples, the lawyers argued.

Following the Obergefell ruling, public employers in Texas, including state agencies and public universities, quickly extended marriage benefits to spouses of gay and lesbian employees.

The Texas high court had initially been reluctant to take the case, but chose to do so under pressure from Republican officials and antigay activists, including the Texas governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general.

While it's a shame that the U.S. Supreme Court didn't knock down the Texas Supreme Court ruling today, this is hardly over.

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The nation's highest court will hear oral arguments on Tuesday.

The high court ruled that states must give same-sex couples the same rights as opposite-sex couples or else the state would be giving same-sex couples "disparate treatment", something forbidden under Obergefell.

"We'll be meeting with our clients and our team on how to go forward", he said.

Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of GLAAD, an LGBTQ advocacy organization, said the court's decision not to take the case opens the door for states to chip away at the rights of LGBTQ Americans. That will change once the Texas courts reach a decision, he said.

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That does not mean Houston can "constitutionally deny benefits to its employees' same-sex spouses", the court added, but the issue must now be resolved "in light of Obergefell".

Supreme Court declines to hear Texas same-sex marriage benefits case