State Supreme Court Reconsiders Same-Sex Benefits

The state’s high court will take up a case questioning the legality of “taxpayer-funded benefits” for same-sex spouses

On Friday, Jan. 20, the Texas Supreme Court agreed to hear oral arguments in a same-sex marriage case in which two Houston plaintiffs (Jack Pidgeon and Larry Hicks) have asked the court to reconsider the legality of "taxpayer-funded benefits" the city is providing to same-sex spouses. The petition to reopen the case, originally rejected by the court in September, states that while SCOTUS ruled marriage a fundamental right in June 2015, it did not include any language concerning public benefits for same-sex spouses.

The City of Houston began offering health and life insurance benefits to all legally married couples, regardless of sexual orientation, in the fall of 2013. Former Mayor Annise Parker ushered the change, recognizing legal same-sex marriages from outside Texas nearly two years before SCOTUS's ruling. However, Pid­geon and Hicks' attorneys Jared Woodfill and Jona­than Saenz – both big players on the Harris County GOP circuit – insist those benefits violated the state constitution and were unfairly funded by city taxpayers. An amicus brief filed Oct. 27 by Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Attorney General Ken Paxton supports Pidgeon and Hicks' claims, and suggests the court reinstate a temporary injunction on same-sex spousal benefits until the matter is cleared.

City attorneys argue that a rehearing is not necessary, and that the petitioners lack evidence suggesting taxpayers funded same-sex marriage benefits. They also say the federal marriage equality ruling clearly includes marriage-related benefits. In fact, the 2015 ruling deemed state laws forbidding same-sex partners from being listed on death certificates and denying LGBTQ parents adoption rights unconstitutional.

The Texas Supreme Court will hear oral arguments from both sides on March 1.

Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Jack Pidgeon
Marriage Equality Suffers Blow
Marriage Equality Suffers Blow
Texas Supreme Court rules against spousal benefits for same-sex marriages

Sarah Marloff, July 7, 2017

More by Sarah Marloff
City Acknowledges Its Debt to Sexual Assault Survivors
City Acknowledges Its Debt to Sexual Assault Survivors
Seen and heard

Feb. 4, 2022

Travis County Settles With Sexual Assault Survivors
Travis County Settles With Sexual Assault Survivors
$580,000 settlement reached in three-year legal battle over handling of sexual assault cases

June 25, 2021


Jack Pidgeon, Larry Hicks, Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, Ken Paxton, Annise Parker

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle