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Houston Couples Still Fighting for Marriage Equality

marriage equality

It has been two years since the U.S. Supreme Court issued the landmark ruling that legalized same-sex marriage. In Texas, however, couples are still fighting for marriage equality, especially couples where one spouse works as a government employee. Having repealed the non-discrimination ordinances in Houston in 2015, there is a great deal of concern over the lack of protections offered for same-sex couples.

Environment of Discrimination Continues

In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges broke ground as same-sex marriage was legalized across the nation. Unfortunately, some states did not embrace the new law, and some even created an environment of discrimination. Texas seems to fall somewhere in the middle in terms of embracing equality and being discriminatory, with many cities having their own sub-environments.

Earlier this year, the Texas Supreme Court passed a law that some people are calling “marriage equality lite”. Under this ruling, the same-sex spouse of a government employee in Texas is not guaranteed traditional marriage benefits like health, dental, or life insurance coverage. The arguments that led to this ruling were initiated by the same anti-LGBT campaigners that designed Houston’s repeal in 2015.

Rather than relying on the foundation set by the precedent Obergefell v. Hodges created, campaigners Jonathan Saenz and Jared Woodfill argued that the law did not specifically mention “publicly funded benefits”, thus opening the door for same-sex spouses to be denied coverage. The argument has bounced back and forth between state and federal courts. Meanwhile, Woodfill specifically asked the court to block government agencies in Houston from providing tax-funded benefits to same-sex spouses, and also asked the court to “compel the mayor and city to claw back taxpayer money… unlawfully spent on spousal benefits for homosexual partners of city employees”. That would require same-sex spouses to pay back money spent on benefits ruled “unlawful” by the latest documents.

Fighting For Marriage Equality

In response to the ruling, several same-sex Houston couples are now filing lawsuits aimed at forcing government agencies to preserve benefits for spouses of same-sex marriages. Attorneys representing the couples has taken the matter before the U.S. Supreme Court under the belief that Texas state courts are not going to uphold marriage equality.

Consider, for example, one person who has filed a lawsuit is a police officer in Houston. Though she serves and protects her community, should she be injured or killed in the line of duty, her same-sex spouse would not receive the same benefits or treatment as her straight coworkers. This lack of equality is offensive, and should not be tolerated.


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