Lawyers for Pidgeon and Hicks told the state Supreme Court that the Obergefell ruling should be interpreted narrowly and did not require states to give taxpayer subsidies to same-sex couples any more than the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion required states to subsidize abortions.
The justices left intact a June ruling by the Republican-dominated Texas Supreme Court that revived a lawsuit backed by a conservative group aimed at blocking Houston from offering such benefits.
The Texas court basically found that while gay marriage is now the law of the land in all states, that doesn't necessarily entitle gay couples to the same benefits of marriage as hetero couples, particularly pointing to someone's ability to receive insurance through their partner's employment.
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"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", Ellis said in a statement.
After all, the Supreme Court made clear in Obergefell the ruling compels states to afford the "constellation of benefits" of marriage to same-sex couples. The federal court's decision, issued without comment, allowed the Texas ruling to stand.
The Texas court changed its mind and heard the case amid intense pressure from Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton, as well as dozens of other conservative elected officials, church leaders and grassroots activists.
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The initial case was an attempt by Texas conservatives to explore the limits of gay marriage following the Supreme Court's landmark 2015 gay marriage case Obergefell v. Hodges. "We reverse the court of appeals' judgment, vacate the trial court's temporary injunction order".
In another case involving the scope of protections provided by the Obergefell decision, the Supreme Court in June overturned a state court ruling that had allowed Arkansas to refuse to list both same-sex spouses on birth certificates.
The controversy began in 2013, when Houston began offering employee benefits to the same-sex spouses of employees who had been legally married in other states.
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And Eric Lesh, director of Lambda Legal's Fair Courts Project, said on Twitter: "The chipping away of Obergefell is underway". Months later in November, U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore dismissed the case on the basis that plaintiffs' claims weren't ripe for review. Chuck Smith, CEO of Equality Texas, said he's not too concerned about Monday's rejection of the Houston case.