By MJ Okma, Associate Director of News & Rapid Response
SCOTUS upheld a ruling threatening spousal benefits for LGBTQ couples by declining to hear Pidgeon v Turner
NEW YORK – Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD – the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, released the following statement after the Supreme Court of the United States refused to take up Pidgeon v. Turner. This decision upholds the ruling of the Texas Supreme Court saying there is not a de facto right to government benefits for LGBTQ couples. This decision begins the process to undercut marriage equality by erasing spousal benefits, including healthcare, for legally married LGBTQ couples in the state of Texas.
“With all eyes on tomorrow’s oral arguments in the Masterpiece Cakeshop religious exemptions case, the Supreme Court has just let an alarming ruling by the Texas Supreme Court stand which plainly undercuts the rights of married same-sex couples. 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.”
BACKGROUND INFORMATION: Pidgeon V. Turner Timeline
Nov. 2005 - Texas bans gay marriage by referendum.
Nov. 2013 - After United States v. Windsor, then-mayor Annise Parker extends spouse benefits to city employees in same-sex marriages legally obtained in other states.
Dec. 2013 - Jack Pidgeon and Larry Hicks file a lawsuit against Parker and City of Houston, arguing providing benefits to same-sex spouses violates Texas Constitution and Texas Family Code.
Dec. 2013 - Trial court grants temporary injunction halting benefits.
Aug. 2014 – U.S. District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division ruled in favor of Pidgeon and Hicks.
March 2015 - City appeals decision to Fourteenth Court of Appeals in Texas.
June 2015 - While case is on appeal, SCOTUS decides Obergefell v. Hodges.
July 2015 - Based on Obergefell, Fourteenth Court of Appeals dissolves injunction and sends matter back to trial court for decision in line with SCOTUS ruling.
Sep. 2016 – Anti-LGBTQ activists in Texas launch a letter-writing campaign to pressure Texas Supreme Court Judges, who are elected officials, to reopen the case. Many threatening the judge’s chances of reelection if they do not reconsider.
Oct. 2016 – Anti-LGBTQ group, Texas Values, lobbies the Texas Supreme Court to re-open the case.
Jan. 2017 – The Supreme Court of Texas agrees to hear the case.
Mar. 2017 - Supreme Court of Texas hears arguments in Pidgeon v. Turner; case has support of Gov. Greg Abbott, Attorney General Ken Paxton, and state senators and representatives, who all filed Amicus briefs.
June 2017 – The Texas Supreme Court ruled that is not a de facto right to government benefits for married gay and lesbian couples.