Texas Supreme Court hears challenge on same-sex marriage rights

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By Jon Herskovitz

<span class="articleLocation”>Two Houston taxpayers, backed by Texas
Republican leaders, on Wednesday challenged Houston’s spousal
benefits for same-sex couples, asking the state’s highest civil
court to re-examine parts of a landmark 2015 U.S. Supreme Court
ruling that legalized gay marriage.

Lawyers for Houston said in opening arguments at the Texas
Supreme Court that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided that
same-sex marriages should be treated equally nationwide and its
decision means Houston is obliged to provide the benefits.

Human rights groups contend the case tries to erode the U.S.
Supreme Court’s decision on an already-settled matter.
Petitioners countered the top U.S. court’s decision on same-sex
marriage is poorly reasoned and the couples are not entitled to
the spousal employment benefits.

“A state court’s ultimate obligation is to the Constitution,
not to the jargon and innovations created by Supreme Court
justices,” the petitioners said in court papers.

Jonathan Mitchell, a petitioners’ lawyer, told the Texas
court it should be up to the state to decide whether to extend
spousal benefits to same-sex couples.

He said Texas, which has a state constitutional amendment
banning same-sex marriage, has an interest in procreation and
opposite-sex unions are the only relationships that can produce
the offspring needed for economic growth.

Social conservatives say the U.S. Supreme Court overstepped
its bounds in legalizing gay marriage and have tried to fight
the ruling by saying it is an affront to constitutionally
protected religious liberty.

Douglas Alexander, a lawyer for Houston, said the city is
not arguing that spousal benefits are a fundamental right but
all marriages should be treated equally. The city had extended
the benefits to same-sex couples legally married in other states
before the U.S. Supreme Court decision.

“If the state or the city – any governmental entity –
affords benefits to opposite-sex couples, under the Equal
Protection Clause and the Due Process clause, they must also
provide them to same sex (couples),” he told the court.

After the highest civil court in Texas in September 2016
declined to take up the case from the taxpayers, the state’s
Republican governor and other Republican politicians filed
briefs in October 2016 urging the all-Republican justices of the
state Supreme Court to take up the matter.

“Not only are Texas Republicans wasting taxpayer dollars on
a backwards crusade against loving couples and families, but
they’re idiotically challenging a case settled by the U.S.
Supreme Court and overwhelming public support,” left-leaning
Progress Texas said in a statement.

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