June 30, 2017
Texas State Supreme Court Sends Marriage Benefits Case Pidgeon v. Turner
Back to Trial Court for Reconsideration in Light of Obergefell
Statement of GLAD Civil Rights Project Director Mary L. Bonauto
For Immediate Release: June 30, 2017
Contact: Carisa Cunningham, 617-447-6500
The Texas State Supreme Court issued its ruling today in Pidgeon v. Turner, in which petitioners have challenged the City of Houston’s provision of benefits to the same-sex spouses of city employees. The court vacated a trial court injunction which would have barred the City from providing the benefits. But the court also sent the case – which dates to before the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court marriage equality ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges – back to the trial court to consider whether Obergefell settles the question of the City’s power to issue the benefits. This overly cautious, technical approach ignores the obvious and only correct result of this litigation.
Mary L. Bonauto, Civil Rights Project Director for GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), who argued Obergefell before the U.S. Supreme Court, issued the following statement:
“While the immediate and, I am confident, eventual final result here is that married same-sex couples in Houston and throughout Texas will continue to receive the equal treatment – including equal access to spousal benefits – the U.S. Constitution guarantees them, I am profoundly disappointed that the Texas Supreme Court did not take the opportunity it had today to resolve this case once and for all.
“The U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell unambiguously recognized the fundamental and equal right to marry for same-sex couples nationwide, together with access to all the same legal rights, benefits and responsibilities associated with marriage without discrimination – a recognition the Court, in fact, just re-affirmed this week in Pavan v. Smith. For the Texas court to leave open the possibility that Obergefell could be read otherwise is, plainly, wrong.
“In suggesting that Obergefell might not speak to the issue of benefits, the Texas court willfully misreads that ruling, which clearly states that same-sex couples are entitled not simply to a marriage license, but to the same ‘constellation of benefits’ available to married different-sex couples.
“We have seen widespread compliance with and acceptance of Obergefell across the States, but as this case demonstrates, the minority of those who are unhappy with that decision have not yet given up their attempts to see it undone or diminished. That is a losing fight.”
GLAD, in partnership with Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the ACLU of Texas, the ACLU Foundation, and O’Melveney & Myers, submitted an amicus brief in Pidgeon v. Turner.
Through strategic litigation, public policy advocacy, and education, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders works in New England and nationally to create a just society free of discrimination based on gender identity and expression, HIV status, and sexual orientation.