Sunday, July 09, 2017

27.4 - Not Good News: Texas Supreme Court says states can deny benefits to same-sex couples

Not Good News: Texas Supreme Court says states can deny benefits to same-sex couples

Unfortunately, we have some Not Good News on the same topic of LGBTQ rights.

Same-sex marriage was not legal in Texas in 2013. Nonetheless, the city of Houston began extending the same spousal benefits it provided to married employees to employees who were partners in same-sex marriages who were married in one of the states where that was legal at the time.

Two Houstonites, backed by a group that opposes same-sex marriage, sued the city, claiming that those benefits amounted to using taxpayer money to subsidize "illegal activities."

The trial court agreed and issued an injunction against the city. But after Obergefell v. Hodges, the US Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage across the whole country, a Texas appeals court overturned that trial court decision and canceled the injuction, finding that under OvH, ss couples were entitled to equal treatment.

But now, on June 30, the Texas Supreme Court has reversed the appeals court and thrown the whole thing back to the trial court to start all over again. In a unanimous decision, the court declared that because Obergefell did not explicitly and in so many words say that “states must provide the same publicly funded benefits to all married persons,” that therefore the “reach and ramifications” of the decision is still being debated.

In short, the court ruled that "Just because we have to let you get married like any straight couple doesn't mean we have to treat you like any straight married couple and we can still discriminated against you - because we don't like you."

It's worth noting at this point the that all-GOPper Texas Supreme Court initially refused to take up the case, leaving the appeals court decision intact, until it got grief from the upper echelons of the Texas GOPper political hierarchy, which in essence effectively ordered the court to take it up, upon which the court did its best to do as it was told while keeping some vague shred of legal integrity intact by throwing the case back to the trial court rather than just ruling in favor of the haters of same-sex marriage.

But to show just how bizarre this ruling was, and how the justice must know how thuddingly wrong they are, they tried to prove that the “reach and ramifications” of Obergefell are still being worked out by pointing to two recent actions of the US Supreme Court. The first was taking the case of the baker who wouldn't bake a cake for a same-sex couple - which has nothing to do with spousal benefits or even same-sex marriage but is about if being a religious bigot frees you from the requirements of civil rights laws.

The second was reversing a ruling by the Arkansas Supreme Court that kept married same-sex couples from being treated the same as opposite-sex couples on their children’s birth certificates. The court said it reversed the ruling because the "differential treatment infringes Obergefell’s commitment to provide same-sex couples 'the constellation of benefits that the States have linked to marriage.'" Which would appear to directly contradict the Texas court's claim that Obergefell can be read as allowing for differential treatment.

The only good thing here is that I am confident that once this gets into federal court, it will be dealt with in short order. It's only too bad that the bozos, bigots, and buffoons who pursued it can't be made to offer some sort of compensation for the pain they have caused.

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