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More on the local GOP’s lawsuit against same sex spouse insurance benefits

Family Court? What’s up with that?

RedEquality

City Attorney Dave Feldman said Wednesday that the city of Houston and Mayor Annise Parker were not given notice before a family district court judge halted a recent policy change extending health and life insurance benefits to city employees in same-sex marriages.

“I’m not even sure how this ended up in family court. This is not a divorce, adoption or custody case,” Feldman said.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Judge Lisa Millard’s court by Jared Woodfill, Harris County’s GOP chairman, claims the policy change violates Houston’s city charter, the state’s Defense of Marriage Act and the Texas Constitution. Millard signed a temporary restraining order late Tuesday, halting the policy change until a Jan. 6 hearing.

“If this had been filed in a regular civil district court, be assured the city would have received notice and been given the opportunity to be there before any restraining order was entered,” Feldman said. Feldman said he plans to appeal Millard’s ruling on Thursday.

I don’t quite get filing this suit in Family Court. I’d have assumed a Civil District Court would be the normal route. I don’t know that it makes any difference, I’m just curious. Any lawyers want to weigh in on that?

Because the Defense of Marriage Act is a statute in the Texas Family Code, a family court is the appropriate venue, Woodfill said. He also said he sent Feldman two emails before the Tuesday hearing in Millard’s court.

“He didn’t respond to direct email,” Woodfill said. “We notified him twice and he didn’t respond.”

Woodfill said he hopes the case will pique the interest of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who could intervene in the case.

“Because we are talking about an elected official who has recognized same-sex marriage, in violation of Texas law, I would think that would be an issue the Attorney General’s Office would want to weigh in on,” Woodfill said. As of Wednesday evening, Abbott had not made a statement about the case.

Yes, I’d love to hear what Abbott has to say, too. As noted before, he seems to be picking his spots. He might prefer to avoid getting tangled up in this sort of brouhaha, which is exactly why I hope he gets pressed on it. Abbott is at least aware enough to realize that he’s on the losing side and that the more he fights the faster he’s likely to bring about his side’s demise. Woodfill doesn’t appear to suffer from that level of clarity. Don’t look now, Jared, but same sex marriage is right on your doorstep. Are you ready for the change that’s coming?

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One Comment

  1. Kenneth Fair says:

    “Family courts” are actually family district courts. They have concurrent jurisdiction with other district courts in the county in which they are located, but have primary responsibility for cases involving family law matters. See Texas Government Code section 24.601.

    Now how this case got assigned to Lisa Millard’s court, I do not know, but my guess involves shenanigans.

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