The Implications of Texas’s Decision to Deny Same-Sex Couples Government Benefits

Today, June 30th 2017, was a massive step back for the gay rights movement. The Texas Supreme Court has ruled that married gay couples are not entitled to government spousal benefits. In 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States decided the Obergefell v. Hodges case, which gave same-sex couples the right to marry and required government departments to give benefits to same-sex spouses of government employees. The Texas court did not plan to even hear the case until they were put under intense pressure from the Attorney General and other top Texas Republicans, who asked the Court (which is entirely Republican) to reconsider.

Though the decision was made public today, the fight over this issue began in 2013 when a group of religious and social conservative organizations banded together and sued Houston. This was to block a policy created by former Houston mayor, Annise Parker, to give benefits to same-sex spouses of city employees. The groups argued that the Supreme Court never said benefits were a fundamental right of marriage and the states should be the ones who decide where benefits are given. They also claimed that this policy violated religious freedom, and it should not be supported by taxpayers who believe gay marriage violates religious believes. Houston argued in response that the Supreme Court ruling meant that all marriages were equal. These benefits were offered to opposite-sex couples, so they must also be extended to same-sex couples. Today, the court threw out the ruling of a lower court, which favored the benefits, and said that they should not have been given to same-sex couples. In his opinion, Texas justice Jeffrey Boyd said, “The Supreme Court held in Obergefell that the Constitution requires states to license and recognize same-sex marriages to the same extent that they license and recognize opposite-sex marriages, but it did not hold that states must provide the same publicly funded benefits to all married persons.”

The circumstances surrounding this decision make it obvious, that while the case was filed in the name of benefits, that’s not what it’s truly about. It’s about stripping gay couples of the rights they only just won two years ago. Jared Woodfill, a conservative activist, called the decision a big victory for religious and state rights. He hopes that this case will push the Supreme Court of the United States to overturn its ruling on gay marriage.

The Texas Supreme Court, after reaching their conclusion, said that they would send the case back down to a lower court. This leaves the possibility that it will go back to the Texas Supreme Court if appealed. And after the Texas Supreme Court, the United States Supreme Court. By the time that happens, justices could die or retire and Trump will have the power to replace them.

If that occurs, same-sex couples may no longer be afforded the same rights under the law as heterosexual couples. The LGBT community has pledged to fight back, but don’t misunderstand the intentions of this ruling. The Texas Supreme Court just made a calculated blow against the decision that gave gay couples the right to marry.



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