Texas Supreme Court Rules that Gays Are Once Again Second-Class Citizens

The Texas Supreme Court on Friday ruled that despite the US Supreme Court’s landmark 2015 ruling making marriage equality the law of the land, gay and lesbian employees in Houston don’t have the right to insurance benefits for their spouses.

In a unanimous decision, the all-Republican high court decided that the right to same-sex marriage didn’t decide all marriage-related matters, leaving room for state courts to explore the decision’s “reach and ramifications.”

The case now goes back to a district court, which will determine if the US Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling applies to spousal benefits provided by the city of Houston.

Former Houston Mayor Annise Parker decided in 2013 to grant benefits to same-sex spouses of city employees who had legally married in other states. Current Mayor Sylvester Turner says spousal benefits will continue to be offered until the district court decides otherwise.

“Marriage equality is the law of the land, and everyone is entitled to the full benefits of marriage, regardless of the gender of their spouse,” said Turner, a Democrat and former state House representative.

Houston officials said they were reviewing the decision and considering options, which could include an appeal to the US Supreme Court.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Jeff Boyd wrote for the court,

The Supreme Court held…that the Constitution requires states to license and recognize same-sex marriages to the same extent that they license and recognize opposite-sex marriages, but it did not hold that states must provide the same publicly funded benefits to all married persons.

Supporters of same-sex marriage reacted with dismay and anger, arguing that the Texas court ignored clear and undeniable instructions from the nation’s highest court, which said same-sex couples cannot be denied “the constellation of benefits that the states have linked to marriage.”

Neel Lane, a Dallas lawyer who challenged the state’s ban on marriage equality in 2013, said the Texas judges blatantly disregarded US Supreme Court rulings that require all marriages to be treated equally—including a decision earlier this week admonishing Arkansas for not allowing same-sex spouses to be listed on their children’s birth certificates.

“The [US Supreme] Court majority intended it to be a watershed opinion that would clear all barriers to equality for same-sex couples. That’s just clear from the language of the opinion,” Lane said.

Equality Texas, a gay rights advocacy group, said the Texas Supreme Court decision “clings to unconstitutional notions of separate but equal.”

“The Texas Supreme Court’s decision this morning is a warning shot to all LGBTQ Americans that the war on marriage equality is ever-evolving, and anti-LGBTQ activists will do anything possible to discriminate against our families,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president of the advocacy group GLAAD.

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