Republican Houston judge blocks city’s partner benefits until Jan. hearing

Posted on 18 Dec 2013 at 9:38am
State District Judge Lisa Millard

State District Judge Lisa Millard

State District Judge Lisa Millard signed a temporary restraining order Tuesday prohibiting the city of Houston from offering partner benefits to same-sex couples after the Harris County GOP chairman filed a lawsuit.

Out Mayor Annise Parker announced that health benefits would be offered to legally married same-sex couples for city employees last month in light of June’s DOMA ruling.

“This is one of the most egregious acts by an elected official I’ve ever seen,” said Jared Woodfill, chairman the Harris County Republican party. “They just decided to, unilaterally, as a lame duck, thumb their nose at the will of the people and just spit on the U.S. Constitution.”

The lawsuit alleges that Parker violated the city’s charter when she extended the benefits for same-sex couples, the state Defense of Marriage Act and the Texas constitutional marriage amendment.

But attorneys for the city told the Houston Chronicle that the lawsuit will likely be thrown out because the men who filed it likely don’t have legal standing.

The Houston GLBT Political Caucus issued a statement late Tuesday.

“The Harris County GOP doesn’t care how many hundreds of thousands of taxpayers dollars are wasted on this frivolous lawsuit,” Caucus President Noel Freeman said.  “Heading into an election year, this isn’t about marriage or taxpayer funding of benefits, it’s about turning out social conservative voters.”

So far only three city employees have added same-sex spouses to their benefits, including Freeman, but now that coverage will be on hold. And if the spouses received care since the benefits went into effect on Nov. 20, they may have to pay for the entire cost.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly held that simply being a taxpayer does not grant standing to sue elected officials.” Freeman said.  “We believe this case will ultimately be dismissed for a lack of standing in accordance with established case law.”

A hearing is set for Jan. 6.

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