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Gay Employees Sue To Preserve Same-Sex Benefits In Houston

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Lambda Legal files federal complaint in response to Texas Supreme Court decision.

By John Wright

In the wake of the Texas Supreme Court’s recent decision to defy Obergefell v. Hodges, Lambda Legal is suing the city of Houston to preserve benefits for the same-sex spouses of municipal employees.

Lambda Legal, along with co-counsel Morgan, Lewis and Bockius, filed the lawsuit Thursday, Aug. 10, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, on behalf of three city employees with same-sex spouses. The complaint lists as defendants the city, Mayor Sylvester Turner, and Houston taxpayers Jack Pidgeon and Larry Hicks. Pidgeon and Hicks are plaintiffs in the lawsuit seeking to overturn the benefits.

“Our clients are angered by the notion that in 2017 their marriages would be deemed inferior to other marriages,” Lambda Legal senior counsel Ken Upton said in a release. “Today, we are standing up for lesbian, gay, and bisexual Houston city workers and their same-sex spouses against those who seek to demean and diminish them.”

The lawsuit is similar to one Lambda Legal filed in 2013, after then-Mayor Annise Parker extended benefits to the same-sex spouses of city employees. Anti-LGBTQ activists sued the city on behalf of Pidgeon and Hicks, and a state district judge ruled in their favor. Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell, an appeals court overturned the district judge’s decision. Meanwhile, Lambda Legal withdrew its federal lawsuit seeking to preserve the benefits.

Anti-LGBTQ groups appealed to the Texas Supreme Court, which initially refused to hear the case, Pidgeon v. Turner. But after a furious lobbying campaign from conservative activists and state Republican leaders, the court reversed its decision. On June 30, justices reinstated Pidgeon v. Turner and sent it back to the district court for a trial.

In response to the Texas Supreme Court decision, Houston officials said the city will continue to offer same-sex benefits while they review their options in Pidgeon v. Hicks, which include an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Read Lambda Legal’s full complaint here.

 

 

 

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John Wright

John Wright is the editor of OutSmart magazine. He has spent two decades in the mainstream and LGBTQ media. Most recently, he served as senior editor of Dallas Voice, and covered LGBTQ issues in the state Legislature for The Texas Observer. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Wright earned his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Florida. He resides in the EaDo area of Houston, where he is currently remodeling a 1930s row house.
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