The U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to overturn a Texas ruling that raised questions about the rights of couples in same-sex marriages. It means a Texas court now will have to rule in a lawsuit from social conservatives who want to block spousal benefits for gay city employees in Houston.
The case will now proceed in a Texas state court.
Houston mayor Sylvester Turner said in June that Houston would continue to be an inclusive city that respects the legal marriages of all employees.
In its decision, the Texas Supreme Court noted that Obergefell requires states to license and recognize same-sex marriages just as they do opposite-sex marriages but did not hold that "states must provide the same publicly funded benefits to all married persons".
The Texas court basically found that while gay marriage is now the law of the land in all states, that doesn't necessarily entitle gay couples to the same benefits of marriage as hetero couples, particularly pointing to someone's ability to receive insurance through their partner's employment.
The case began in 2013 when Jack Pidgeon and Larry Hicks sued the city of Houston after the city's mayor gave municipal spousal benefits, health and life insurance, to same-sex married couples.
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The Texas high court had initially been reluctant to take the case, but made a decision to do so under pressure from Republican officials and antigay activists, including the Texas governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general.
Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of GLAAD, an LGBTQ advocacy organization, said the court's decision not to take the case opens the door for states to chip away at the rights of LGBTQ Americans.
The ruling returned the lawsuit to a Houston district court to determine whether the U.S. Supreme Court's marriage ruling applies to spousal benefits provided by Houston.
It was June of this year when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 against an Arkansas law forbidding same-sex couples from being listed on a child's birth certificate. The high court does not usually comment when rejecting an appeal.
That does not mean Houston can "constitutionally deny benefits to its employees' same-sex spouses", the court added, but the issue must now be resolved "in light of Obergefell".
In a rare reversal, the state Supreme Court relented, accepting the case and eventually ruling that there is no established right to spousal benefits in same-sex marriages.