Benefits Row Can Test Obergefell's Reach, Texas Justices Say

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Texas Supreme Court Rules That Married Gay Couples Have No Right to Government Spousal Benefits

The Texas Supreme Court's decision to reverse the lower court's ruling offering marriage benefits to same sex couples is not the end of the matter. In a statement, Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD, wrote: "The Texas Supreme Court's decision this morning is a warning shot to all LGBTQ Americans that the war on marriage equality is ever-evolving, and anti-LGBTQ activists will do anything possible to discriminate against our families".

The legal issue in Pidgeon was whether the United States Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges should be applied narrowly-limited to the issue of marriage licenses-or broadly, affecting spousal benefits associated with marriage.

This came to light after a Houston case challenged a benefits policy recently.

While an appeal from Houston was pending, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its June 2015 opinion that overturned state bans on gay marriage, prompting the appeals court to lift the injunction.

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They've argued that the interpretation of Obergefell is too broad and that the right to marry does not "entail any particular package of tax benefits, employee fringe benefits or testimonial privileges".

It followed the 2015 US Supreme Court ruling, which had found that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry and enjoy equal protection under the law.

The Texas Supreme Court declined to hold that Obergefell automatically required the state to extend its benefits to same-sex pairings.

One of the plaintiffs in this case, Boyd continues, "contends that neither the Constitution nor Obergefell requires citizens to support same-sex marriages with their tax dollars, but he has not yet had the opportunity to make his case".

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The Texas Supreme Court also made note of two moves by the U.S. Supreme Court this week as proof that courts are still weighing Obergefell's impact. In addition to reversing the lower court's ruling, the Court sent the case back to the Houston trial court for further litigation and acknowledged that ambiguities in the Obergefell decision would inevitably lead to more such cases for courts to hash out.

LGBT advocates on Friday were enraged by the Texas court's ruling.

In case you're wondering, justices on the Texas Supreme Court are elected, not appointed. The court agreed to hear it after coming under intense pressure from Gov. Greg Abbott and the state's other top Republican politicians. Equality Texas called it "patently indefensible", and Lambda Legal said it "defies all logic and reason".

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