Texas Is Still Trying to Roll Back Same-Sex Marriage Rights
On Friday, the nine Republican Justices of Texas Supreme Court threw out a lower court ruling on whether same-sex spouses of public employees are entitled to government-subsidized
The Texas Supreme Court ordered a lower trial court to reconsider Pidgeon v. Houston, a case in which two Houston taxpayers claimed that the city of Houston was “expending significant public funds on an illegal activity” by extending government employee benefits to married same-sex couples.
But before you get too upset or worried that Texas is about to help overturn same-sex marriage rights nationwide, here are four things you need to know:
1. The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 same-sex marriage decision has already settled this question.
In the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, the court said that states must provide same-sex married couples the same “privileges and responsibilities … terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples.” Period.
So if the Houston government gives married heterosexual couples certain benefits, they have to give them to same-sex married couples too.
In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court just applied this same reasoning in a 6 to 3 ruling requiring Arkansas to list same-sex spouses on child birth certificates just like Arkansas does with heterosexual spouses.
2. The upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case on the anti-gay bakery has nothing to do with this.
The Texas Supreme Court said that another upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case on same-sex marriage, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, proves that Obergefell v. Hodges did not provide “the final word” on tangential questions related to same-sex marriage, but that’s bullshit.
The Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case is about whether businesses can deny services to same-sex couples based on religious beliefs, a first amendment issue completely unrelated to the Texas case because the Texas case involves government benefits (not a proprietary business) and doesn’t involve any claim to religious rights.
3. The Texas Supreme Court Justices only took on the case after public pressure.
The Texas Supreme Court initially refused to hear Pidgeon v. Houston, but admitted in their recent decision that they only took up the case after receiving “emails, letters, and postcards” from individual citizens.
In October 2016, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton all filed an amicus brief telling the Texas Supreme Court court to reconsider taking up this case too.
So why would a judicial court decide to take up a case based on public pressure? That brings us to the next point…
4. The Texas Supreme Court Justices did this solely to ensure their re-election chances.
In Texas, Supreme Court Justices are elected, they’re not given lifetime appointments. A 2016 study by the LGBTQ legal group Lambda Legal showed that elected judges are far more likely to rule against LGBTQ rights because they’re trying to placate conservative voters who could easily vote them off the bench.
The anti-gay taxpayers who brought this case against the City of Houston have vowed to take this case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Even if they do, their case will meet the same fate as the Arkansas birth certificate case.
Featured image by dlewis33 via iStock