- A ruling by the Texas Supreme Court calls into question the "reach and ramifications" of the Obergefell v. Hodges U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage, particularly with respect to spousal benefits.
- Essentially, the court ruled that the right to same-sex marriage doesn't necessarily guarantee or "decide all marriage-related matters," leaving the status of benefits for same-sex couples up in the air as the courts reconsider it. The case will return to the trial court.
- The defendant in the case, the city of Houston, could appeal the issue directly to the Supreme Court, but will still offer the benefits for now, as it has for years, according to Dallas News. The case was originally refused by the Texas high court, but it was unexpectedly re-opened after pressure from Governor Greg Abbott and other GOP leaders in the state.
This case is the only one of its type currently under consideration in the U.S., which is why it's being watched so closely. The precedent it sets could raise questions regarding same-sex couples' benefits for some time, depending on how the lower courts reconsider it.
In the wake of Obergefell, employers had to shift their benefits accordingly. Many organizations offered domestic partner benefits in areas where same-sex marriages were not recognized as legal. With Obergefell, employers could streamline their benefits program and treat same-sex spouses the same as different-sex spouses, thus eliminating the need for domestic partner benefits.
The Texas court's ruling adds another layer of complexity to the series of LGBT cases working their way through the courts. The federal courts of appeal are hashing out whether employees are protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation. And in Pennsylvania, a federal judge recently ruled that transgender employees may sue under the Americans with Disabilities Act.