Kyle Velte has extensive expertise in civil procedure, conflicts of law, and sexual
orientation and the law.
Late this morning (June 30), the Texas Supreme Court threw out a lower court ruling
that said spouses of gay and lesbian public employees are entitled to government-subsidized
same-sex marriage benefits. In a unanimous decision, the state’s top court ordered
a trial court to reconsider the case.
The case originated from a challenge to the City of Houston’s benefits policy. The
lower court ruled that, due to the landmark ruling of Obergefell v. Hodges that legalized same-sex marriage, city and other governmental agencies are required
to extend taxpayer-subsidized benefits to same-sex spouses of government employees.
The ruling, however, was challenged by two taxpayers represented by same-sex marriage
opponents. The Texas Supreme Court ruled that Obergefell did not specifically state the “reach and ramifications” of the 2015 U.S. Supreme
Kyle Velte, a visiting assistant professor in the Texas Tech University School of Law, is available to speak to the media as an expert on this ruling. Velte has extensive
expertise in civil procedure, conflicts of law, and sexual orientation and the law.
The Texas Supreme Court contends that Obergefell v. Hodges didn’t specifically address or resolve the issue of municipal spousal benefits. This
is patently incorrect. This matter was settled by Obergefell, which clearly stated that same-sex couples must be granted access to marriage on
the same terms as different-sex couples, including the same legal rights, benefits
Obergefell declared that the Constitution grants same-sex couples “the constellation” of “rights,
benefits, and responsibilities” that “the states have linked to marriage.” Its holding
was not limited to marriage licensing.
“Today’s decision from the Texas Supreme Court was a procedural one. It did not decide
the substantive merits of case, namely whether Texas may deny spousal benefits to
same-sex married couples. The ruling, however, revives a case that was dead and sends
it back to the trial court to give the parties another chance to attack the marriage
of same-sex couples.”
“Justice Neil Gorsuch, recently appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by Donald Trump,
has already shown that he is supportive of lower courts’ efforts to buck Obergefell and preserve anti-LGBT laws. Today’s Texas Supreme Court decision shows that state
courts are listening. As a result, just two years after Obergefell, the equal dignity of same-sex couples is once again legally contested and jeopardized.”