State Leadership Picks at the Texas' Same-Sex Marriage Scab

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and, most of all, Attorney General Ken Paxton are not content to leave well enough alone when it comes to the protections afforded to Texas' same-sex married couples.

On Friday the trio waded back into the waters they'd seemingly abandoned in 2015, following the Supreme Court's legalization of gay marriage in June of that year. They've asked the Texas Supreme Court, the state's highest judicial body in civil cases, to limit the extent to which local and state agencies must recognize unions between partners of the same-sex.

Abbott, Patrick and Paxton are asking the court to take a second look at a case that challenged a Houston law that extended the same benefits to all married city employees, regardless of to whom they happen to be married. They want the Texas Supreme Court to clarify that Obergefell v. Hodges, the case decision that legalized same-sex marriage, doesn't "bind state courts to resolve all other claims in favor of the right to same-sex marriage."

According to the state of Texas' three highest ranking elected officials, the only thing Obergefell does is require public employers to recognize same-sex marriages. They aren't required, in Abbott, Patrick and Paxton's words, to "subsidiz[e]same-sex marriages" through the provision of benefits to employees.

The Supreme Court decision also does not retroactively allow municipalities like Houston or Dallas to violate Texas laws in place before Obergefell came down, the brief argues.

"It it not the duty of the state courts to divine broad principles from Supreme Court opinions and to extrapolate them to new contexts,” the Republicans write in the brief. “Rather, state courts must be meticulous in examining each new claimed right and determining whether and to what extent it must be expanded in new ways."

Paxton's comment on the case stands in stark contrast with his behavior in court cases that immediately followed the Obergefell decision.

"My office had the privilege of defending Texas’ marriage laws in Fifth Circuit. While the U.S. Supreme Court did recognize a right to same-sex marriage, there are a host of issues in that area of the law that remain unresolved. I applaud Governor Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Patrick for their leadership in asking that state courts give serious consideration to these weighty, unresolved questions," he said Friday.

The attorney general made no mention of the fact that his office dropped a battle in July 2015 to deny federal family medical leave protections to same-sex married couples in Texas, conceding that Obergefell required it to do so.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young

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