Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but this is where we are.
In the wake of the toppling of Roe v. Wade and with Justice Clarence Thomas urging the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit rulings on gay sex and marriage, Texas is the stage for several lawsuits dealing with LGBT rights.
Right now, a half dozen cases on everything from insurance coverage for HIV prevention to employment discrimination and same-sex marriage are wending their way through state and federal courts here. Their outcomes could radically alter rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Texas and across the country.
The lawsuits all have one thing in common: former Texas solicitor general Jonathan Mitchell.
Best known as the man behind the state law that allows Texans to file civil lawsuits against people who help pregnant people get abortions, Mitchell opened up a law firm in Austin four years ago with the goal of systematically dismantling decades of court rulings he believes depart from the U.S. Constitution.
The Dallas Morning News is tracking six of his cases that originated in Texas and deal with LGBT rights. Here’s a summary of each case.
Dianne Hensley vs. State Commission on Judicial Conduct (Third Court of Appeals)
Brian Keith Umphress vs. David Hall, et al. (Northern District of Texas)
Summary: Both of these cases were brought by Texas officials with the authority to perform weddings but who do not want to offer marriages to same-sex couples because they say it violates their religious beliefs.
John Kelley, et al., vs. Xavier Becerra (Northern District of Texas)
Summary: Plaintiffs in this federal lawsuit argue that insurers or self-insured employers should not have to cover certain kinds of preventive medical care because that would force them “to underwrite coverage that violates their religious beliefs.” The suit also targets the Affordable Care Act’s mechanisms for deciding which care private insurers must cover, arguing it gives the federal agencies and other unelected bodies undue control over decisions that should remain with Congress.
Braidwood Management v. EEOC (Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals)
Summary: The case in federal court, filed on behalf of Hotze’s Braidwood Management and the Keller-based Bear Creek Bible Church, argues that religious employers should be able to hire and fire workers based on their sexuality and gender identity.
LGBT Library Books
Leila Green Little, et al. vs. Llano County (Western District of Texas)
Summary: The federal lawsuit, filed by citizens of Llano County, argues their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when local leaders pulled certain titles from the library’s child and teen sections that they deemed “pornographic.”
Patrick Von Dohlen, et al. vs. city of San Antonio (438th District Court in Bexar County)
Summary: This state lawsuit, filed by a handful of would-be Chick-fil-A customers, argues San Antonio violated a state’s so-called Save Chick-fil-A law by booting the fast food chain Chick-fil-A from the local airport based on its charitable donations to Christian groups that oppose LGBT rights. The law, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed in 2019, prohibits governmental entities from taking “adverse actions” against a business or person for their contributions to or memberships in religious organizations, and allows citizens to sue over apparent violations.
Some of these I’ve written about before, but you get the idea on them all. The plan of course is to get one or more of these cases to SCOTUS to have a shot at overturning Windsor and/or Obergefell. I assume that the recent bill passed by the House to offer federal protections to same sex marriage would have some effect, but it’s hard to say how much and I’d rather not find out. The underlying philosophy is that some people, namely Jonathan Mitchell and his fellow travelers, have more rights and legal protections than anyone else. I’m sure you can see why they’re aiming to take this path to achieve those ends. Anyway, I don’t know how this ends but I do know we can’t be sitting idly waiting for it. It would be lovely if we had a Senate that was up to doing something not only about the overall erosion of civil rights but also the radical nature of the federal judiciary these days. Maybe next year, if we’re lucky and can make it till then.