The benefits policy was enacted by Houston's former, and first openly gay, mayor, Annise Parker, in 2013.
In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal government must extend benefits to married same-sex couples. In 2015, the Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. At issue is whether that ruling requires public agencies to provide benefits to same-sex spouses of government employees.
The plaintiffs — two taxpayers represented by same-sex marriage opponents — contend that Houston's benefits policy goes further than the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court's Obergefell decision requires. The Texas Supreme Court, in Pidgeon v. Houston, agreed.
As KUT explained, the Texas Supreme Court originally declined to hear the case, which upheld the lower court's decision, but reversed course "under pressure from top Texas Republicans":
http://www.npr.org/2017/06/30/535021154/texas-supreme-court-rules-against-benefits-for-same-sex-couples"Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed an amicus brief in October asking the all-Republican court to reconsider. They also asked the court to clarify that the U.S. Supreme Court case legalizing same-sex marriage, Obergefell v. Hodges, does not 'bind state courts to resolve all other claims in favor of the right to same-sex marriage.' "
"The state Supreme Court’s refusal to extend state spousal benefits to same-sex couples is an insidious attempt to defy Obergefell v. Hodges." http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2017/06/texas_supreme_court_refuses_to_extend_spousal_benefits_to_same_sex_couples.html
First part of U.S. Supreme Court decision in Pavan v. Smith. https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/16pdf/16-992_868c.pdf
As this Court explained in Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U. S. ___ (2015), the Constitution entitles same-sex couples to civil marriage "on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples." Id., at ___ (slip op., at 23). In the decision below, the Arkansas Supreme Court considered the effect of that holding on the State's rules governing the issuance of birth certificates. When a married woman gives birth in Arkansas, state law generally requires the name of the mother's male spouse to appear on the child's birth certificate—regardless of his biological relationship to the child. According to the court below, however, Arkansas need not extend that rule to similarly situated same-sex couples: The State need not, in other words, issue birth certificates including the female spouses of women who give birth in the State. Because that differential treatment infringes Obergefell's commitment to provide same-sex couples "the constellation of benefits that the States have linked to marriage," id., at ___ (slip op., at 17), we reverse the state court's judgment." [emphasis added]
Trump's appointee dissented. Will Gorsuch be the new Roger Taney (of the Dred Scott decision)?
See also Frontiero v. Richardson, 93 S.Ct. 1764 (1973).
I suppose next Texas' politicians-- judicial, legislative or executive-- will be telling us that the state and Texas local governments don't have to provide benefits equal to traditional, opposite sex couple where one of the partners of a white spouse is a black or one of the spouses is a Muslim. All of these scenarios, and the current one, have the same ideological supremacist and stigmatizing rationale. The ruling will result in loss of benefts for the same-sex spouse
I took both a Constitutional Law and a Civil Rights course in law school. I have taught constitutional law at both the undergraduate and graduate level. I have read dozens of books on the topic and regularly read relevant Supreme Court decisions and related articles. I am aware of the long history of reactionary attempts by the Texas Supreme Court and legislature to justify unlawful discrimination against blacks, black and white couples, black schoolchildren, etc.. Anyone who cares about the rule of law, the constitutional right to equal protection of the law, and knows anything about those legal provisions and relevant U.S. S.Ct. decisions knows this a B.S. opinion. It is a sad day when close-mindedness and political influence trump the rule of law in a state Supreme Court.