U.S. Supreme Court rejects same-sex marriage benefits case

Chase Karacostas

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday left in place a Texas ruling that declared marriage licenses do not guarantee the right to spousal benefits with employee insurance plans for same-sex couples.

The ruling by the Texas Supreme Court in June declared not all issues related to marriage were decided in the landmark Obergefell v Hodges decision in June of 2015, which extended the right of marriage to same-sex couples. Therefore, the Texas court said the 2015 U.S. court decision left room for state courts to decide the range of its impact.

The University currently offers employee benefits to married same-sex couples, according to communications Strategist Shilpa Bakre. It is currently uncertain if Monday’s ruling will affect these benefits.

The case began in 2013 when Annise Parker, then-mayor of Houston, began offering employee spousal benefits to same-sex couples who were married in states that had legalized same-sex marriage. Opponents of same-sex marriage sued to prevent Parker from offering these benefits. 

“This is an incredible early Christmas present from the U. S. Supreme Court for taxpayers. We’re grateful that the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed our lawsuit to go forward,” said Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values and an attorney for Jack Pidgeon and Larry Hicks, whose lawsuit challenged Houston’s ability to offer these benefits, in a statement Monday morning. 

While the case was still being litigated two years later, the Obergefell v. Hodges decision came, and the 14th Court of Appeals allowed the city to begin offering benefits to same-sex couples. The Texas Supreme Court then rejected the case in September of last year.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton applauded the decision in a statement Monday evening. 

“We’re pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court let stand the Texas Supreme Court ruling that the right to a marriage license does not entitle same-sex couples to employee benefits at the expense of Texas taxpayers,” Paxton said. 

Sarah Kate Ellis, president of LGBTQ advocacy organization GLAAD, condemned the decision in a press release Monday morning. 

“The (U.S.) Supreme Court has just let an alarming ruling by the Texas Supreme Court stand which plainly undercuts the rights of married same-sex couples,” Ellis said. “Today’s abnegation by the nation’s highest court opens the door for an onslaught of challenges to the rights of LGBTQ people at every step.”