Justices Deny City of Houston's Appeal Over Benefits for Same-Sex Couples

AUSTIN, Texas - The United States Supreme Court will not get involved in a case addressing whether or not gay spouses of government entities are entitled to government-subsidized workplace benefits.

This stems from a case involving the city of Houston. In Turner v Pidgeon, the city's policy allowing same-sex spouses of city employees was called into question by two residents who argued that the taxpayers should not pay for benefits that are not required by law.

The U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in a landmark case in 2015, called Obergefell v. Hodges. In June 2017, the Texas Supreme Court tossed out a ruling by a lower court that favored same-sex marriage benefits.

SCOTUS' decision not to review Houston's appeal means the Texas Supreme Court's ruling that calls for an exploration of the "reach and ramifications" of the country's same-sex marriage law.
Monday's decision "doesn't create law, and it doesn't change law," according to Equality Texas Chief Executive Officer, Chuck Smith.

Government entities are not required to provide benefits to spouses of gay and lesbian employees, though many choose to do so, and LGBT advocates have said benefits should apply to all legal marriages.

"Any employer that offers benefits to married people, they need to continue to offer those benefits on the same terms and conditions regardless of the gender of the couples," Smith said.

Meanwhile, an attorney representing the two people suing the city of Houston, said the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 ruling did not address same-sex benefits, it only addressed legality of marriage, and therefore, there is "nothing in law that requires government to use tax dollars to pay for same-sex benefits."

"The Supreme Court had an opportunity, if they felt something was different or there was a concern or maybe their previous precedent was being misrepresented, the opportunity was right in front of them to say something," attorney Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values, said.
Smith disagrees.

"[SCOTUS] was abundantly clear in their ruling that they weren’t just talking about the performance of a marriage ceremony, they were in fact talking about all of the benefits that flow from the institution of marriage," Smith explained.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a statement after the high court's announcement on Monday.

"We’re pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court let stand the Texas Supreme Court ruling that the right to a marriage license does not entitle same-sex couples to employee benefits at the expense of Texas taxpayers," Paxton said, in part.

Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa released a statement as well.

"The High Court just made it harder for so many folks to achieve the American Dream. This decision rejects the very ideals this nation was founded on and allows discrimination against same-sex couples to fester," Hinojosa stated, in part.

The case now heads back to a trial court. The U.S. Supreme Court could take it up at a later date, if the justices decide.


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