Annise-parker

Former Houston Mayor Annise Parker

A Houston district judge has ordered the city of Houston to pay attorney fees in Pidgeon v. Parker, the case filed by plaintiffs that want to prevent the city from offering benefits to employees married to same-sex spouses. The judge also rejected a motion to move the case to federal court, according to Christian News.

Attorneys for the city of Houston argued that equal access to marriage and all of its benefits was decided in the Obergefell decision and, therefore, the case had constitutional implications and should be heard in federal court. The judge said the city didn’t make its argument to move the case.

The case began in 2013 when former mayor Anise Parker extended city benefits to same-sex partners. Two plaintiffs, an accountant and a pastor, sued claiming there was no fundamental right to taxpayer-funded benefits.

Because the federal marriage equality ruling in 2015 gave same-sex couples the right marriage and all of its benefits, Houston tried to have the case moved to federal court. The district court ruled against the city saying it hadn’t proven that was the case had constitutional implications.

The U.S. Supreme Court also refused to hear an appeal of the case after the Texas Supreme Court ruled that a right to marry doesn’t necessarily include the right to benefits and the Obergefell ruling wasn’t clear on the point. The first sentence of the Obergefell ruling is actually very clear on the point and includes the word benefits.

Instead, on Tuesday, April 10, the court ruled against the city and ordered it to pay attorney fees for the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs were represented by Jonathan Saenz, who founded the anti-LGBT group Texas Values after his wife left him for a woman.

A spokesman for current Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the city would continue to defend the rights of city employees to have equal access to benefits.

— David Taffet