Last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges upheld the validity of same-sex marriages throughout the United States, transforming family law. However, opponents of these marriages in Texas recently filed a motion with the state Supreme Court, asking it to reconsider its ruling upholding the legality of employee benefits that the city of Houston provides to same-sex married couples.
Houston is defending the granting of employee benefits to same-sex spouses. Its attorneys pointed out that state agencies provided benefits to the couples shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in the Obergefell case last summer. They said that employee benefits cannot be restricted by sexual orientation, according to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Same-sex marriage opponents see this as an opportunity to limit the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion, which struck down state laws that excluded same-sex couples from benefits and rights accorded to opposite-sex couples. They claim that they are not asking the state to defy the Obergefell case, but want the state Supreme Court to restrictively interpret the impact of same-sex marriage and its impact on Texas policies. They argue that the Obergefell case merely grants civil marriage rights to same-sex couples, but did not strike down laws that withhold public subsidies or employee benefits from same-sex couples.
The Texas Supreme Court already rejected their appeal in an 8-1 decision and upheld a lower court allowing these benefits. In their reconsideration request, opponents of these benefits asked the Court to reject the sexual revolution ideology embraced by federal courts who ruled that gay marriage was constitutional, invalidated the state’s abortion regulations and struck down another state’s law allowing businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples based on religious objections to these marriages.
Opponents filed a legal brief and commenced an e-mail campaign with selected state Court justices. The state Attorney General will also file a brief supporting reconsideration of the Court’s ruling. But, these types of reconsideration motions are rarely granted by the Court.
Same-sex marriage poses new family law issues. Couples should seek legal assistance to learn their rights on adoption, custody and other matters.