I am quoted in Houston Chronicle about Same-Sex Benefits Suit

December 18th, 2013

Following up from my two posts yesterday about a suit filed in Harris County challenging the City of Houston’s decision to award benefits to same-sex couples, I am quoted in today’s Houston Chronicle about the case.

Woodfill said state District Judge Lisa Millard signed a temporary restraining order late Tuesday, halting the new policy until the matter goes before a judge on Jan. 6.

City Attorney David Feldman defended the new policy when it was announced in November and said Tuesday nothing has changed.

“We’re comfortable with our legal position,” he said. Feldman cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling earlier this year overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act, federal agencies’ subsequent decisions to recognize legal same-sex marriages and other relevant case law to support the legality of the policy.

Feldman said he expects the lawsuit to be thrown out because Pidgeon and Hicks do not appear to have legal standing since they are not directly affected by the policy.

Josh Blackman, a professor of constitutional law at the South Texas College of Law, said the men’s standing would have to be decided by a judge.

“You can only sue if you’re affected by a law, and generally paying taxes to the city does not give you standing,” he said. “But under Texas law, there are some cases where you can. This may be one of those cases.”

Woodfill said the Harris County Republican Party passed a resolution supporting the lawsuit before it was filed on Tuesday. He said he expects Pidgeon and Hicks will be able to challenge the policy.

“There’s an exception carved out for an illegal act, which is what the mayor has done here,” Woodfill said.

I am still digging into the standing issue, but as I suggested yesterday, taxpayer standing under Texas law is much more expansive than under Article III.