Won’t be his last, I’m sure, but as the first it sure seems like a rearguard action.
The state of Texas is suing the Obama administration for giving medical leave benefits to certain same-sex couples, according to an announcement Wednesday from Attorney General Ken Paxton.
The lawsuit comes in response to a rule change announced by the president last month, which grants paid time off to legally married same-sex couples, even if they are living in a state, like Texas, that does not recognize gay marriage. The rule change to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, is scheduled to take effect March 27.
“The newly revised definition of ‘spouse’ under the FMLA is in direct violation of state and federal laws and the U.S. Constitution,” Paxton said in a written statement.
The federal rule change would apply only to federal employees. Currently, same-sex couples cannot get married in Texas, so only couples who were legally married elsewhere would be eligible for the benefits.
Gay rights advocates criticized the lawsuit.
“I think there are a lot of people who would like to know why the attorney general cares if loving, committed couples are recognized as loving, committed couples,” said Daniel Williams, legislative director for Equality Texas, a group that lobbies for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
A copy of the lawsuit is here. Seems to me this action would affect a fairly small number of people. How many federal employees are there in Texas – do Texas National Guard members count? – and how many of them are in same sex relationships? But we know it’s not about the numbers for Paxton but the principle, which is the irrational animosity towards LGBT people. One would think that an adverse-to-Texas ruling from SCOTUS in June would render this moot. One would also hope that this might spur the Fifth Circuit to either issue its own ruling or take action on the request to lift the stay. In the meantime, I agree with Neel Lane.
Neel Lane, an attorney representing gay couples in the Texas marriage equality case, criticized Paxton’s action.
“It appears Atty. Gen. Paxton has decided to follow his predecessor’s practice of wasting taxpayer money by filing hopeless politically-motivated lawsuits against the federal government that are doomed to fail,” Lane said.
“In this case, Paxton is persecuting law-abiding citizens who simply happen to be gay or lesbian,” he said, adding that the civil rights fights of 50 years ago proved that such a “tactic may work in the short term, but eventually we will all condemn his actions for what they are.”