Woodfill gets another injunction



A state district judge on Wednesday ordered the city of Houston to stop offering health and life insurance benefits to the same-sex spouses of married employees, but city attorneys say they plan an immediate appeal that, once filed, could leave the benefits in place.

Days after being elected to her third and final term last November, Mayor Annise Parker announced Houston would extend employment benefits to the spouses of all married employees, gay or straight. It would be a liability for the city to enforce an unconstitutional ban on such benefits, she said, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last summer that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

Parker’s policy change spurred three lawsuits, including two from conservatives, who argued the policy change violates Houston’s city charter, the state’s Defense of Marriage Act and the Texas Constitution.

State District Judge Lisa Millard quickly signed an order preventing the city from offering the benefits, but that order was lifted in January after the city moved the case to federal court.

In August, a federal judge moved the proceedings back to state court, saying she did not have jurisdiction, but said “the substantive issues are likely to be decided, in a federal forum, regardless of this remand.”

The second lawsuit, filed by employees whose benefits were denied by the restraining order, led to a U.S. district judge leaving the benefits in place pending a ruling from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on whether Texas’ Defense of Marriage Act is constitutional; a federal judge in San Antonio ruled that law unconstitutional in February.

Jared Woodfill, a conservative activist who filed the first lawsuit against the city, filed another lawsuit last week, again asking Millard to stop Parker from issuing benefits to same-sex couples. As she did in January, Millard agreed to issue a temporary injunction Wednesday.

See here for the background and here for a copy of Woodfill’s latest publicity stunt lawsuit. Can someone please explain to me how Judge Millard has the authority to do this given the previous actions by the federal courts? I feel like I must be missing something here. Lone Star Q has more.

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One Response to Woodfill gets another injunction

  1. Eric Dick says:

    I also took a double take when I saw it was in a family court.

    The “Defense of Marriage Act” is actually in Texas Family Code.

    Tex. Family Code 6.204 states:

    UNION. (a) In this section, “civil union” means any relationship
    status other than marriage that:
    (1) is intended as an alternative to marriage or
    applies primarily to cohabitating persons; and
    (2) grants to the parties of the relationship legal
    protections, benefits, or responsibilities granted to the spouses
    of a marriage.
    (b) A marriage between persons of the same sex or a civil
    union is contrary to the public policy of this state and is void in
    this state.
    (c) The state or an agency or political subdivision of the
    state may not give effect to a:
    (1) public act, record, or judicial proceeding that
    creates, recognizes, or validates a marriage between persons of the
    same sex or a civil union in this state or in any other
    jurisdiction; or
    (2) right or claim to any legal protection, benefit,
    or responsibility asserted as a result of a marriage between
    persons of the same sex or a civil union in this state or in any
    other jurisdiction.

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