The Texas Supreme Court [official website] on Friday reversed its previous 8-1 decision [opinion], choosing to review a lower court ruling [order list, PDF] in which that court held cities are required to offer the same benefits to same-sex spouses of employees as to opposite-sex spouses. Texas Republicans, who pushed the Supreme Court [Star Telegram article] to this decision, hope that this decision will open the door to challenge the US Supreme Court’s [official website] landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges [SCOTUSblog materials], in which the court held the Fourteenth Amendment requires states to recognize same-sex marriage when lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state. Houston city officials are arguing that the court’s decision in Obergefell does not obligate public employers to “take steps beyond recognizing same-sex marriage—steps like subsidizing same-sex marriages (through allocation of employee benefits) on the same terms as traditional marriages.” Oral arguments are set for March 1.
Same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] in the US has been an ongoing debate for many years. In December the Arkansas Supreme Court overturned [JURIST report] a lower court ruling that would have allowed married same-sex couples to get the names of both spouses on their child’s birth certificate. In October Alabama’s Chief Supreme Court Justice was suspended [JURIST report] for ordering state probate judges to ignore a federal court order requiring them to grant marriage licenses to homosexual couples. In September the North Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed [JURIST report] a lower court’s dismissal of a claim by two former magistrates that their rights were violated by 2014 guidance memos from the Administrative Office of the Courts that said they could be fired if they refused to perform same-sex marriages.