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County GOP Sues Houston over Same-sex Benefits

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Houston Mayor Annise Parker Photo: AP
Houston Mayor Annise Parker
Photo: AP

Harris County Republicans have sued the City of Houston over its extension of health and life insurance benefits last month to legally married same-sex spouses of city employees.

Jared Woodfill, chairman of the Harris County Republican Party, told the Houston Chronicle that the city acted unilaterally.

The lawsuit filed in state District court alleges the mechanism used by Mayor Annise Parker, who is openly gay, violated the city charter, the state Defense of Marriage Act, and the Texas Constitution.

City Attorney David Feldman said he expected the lawsuit would be thrown out because the filers did not appear to have legal standing.

An opinion issued in April by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said local governments offering such benefits are violating the state constitution.

Feldman addressed the other issues outlined in the lawsuit when Parker announced the change despite a voter-approved 2001 charter amendment that had banned the practice in November, and said the administration’s position has not changed.

Feldman noted the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act this year, federal agencies’ subsequent decisions to recognize legal same-sex marriages, and other relevant case law.

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