For now, at least.
A federal judge ruled Thursday that same-sex couples legally married in other states can keep health and life insurance benefits that were extended to spouses of city of Houston employees in November.
[Noel] Freeman’s husband’s benefits, and those of spouses of four other city employees, were temporarily halted in December after two Harris County Republicans, led by Jared Woodfill, the county’s GOP chairman, sued the city.
The lawsuit claims Mayor Annise Parker’s policy violates Houston’s city charter, the state’s Defense of Marriage Act and the Texas Constitution.
After the lawsuit was filed in family court, state District Judge Lisa Millard signed a temporary restraining order putting the brakes on the administration of the benefits.
Days later, lawyers for the city of Houston had the case moved to federal court. At Thursday’s hearing, U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal declined to grant the GOP’s request for a restraining order.
It was a difference Woodfill seized on after the hearing.
“Judge Millard’s position was that the Mayor’s actions were illegal and unlawful and she immediately restrained the Mayor from going forward,” Woodfill said. “This judge has not decided whether the Mayor’s actions were illegal, so she gave us more time to do additional briefing.”
Woodfill will next try to convince Rosenthal that the case should be moved back to state court. Only after Rosenthal decides if it will stay in her court or be sent back will both sides start to argue over the substance of the case.
See here, here, and here for the background. The next hearing will likely be sometime in February – the story doesn’t specify a date, just that it’s “more than a month away” – so that’s that for the immediate future. But look, does anyone believe that regardless of the outcome of this case that Woodfill is going to prevail in the end? The demise of DOMA and the court rulings in Utah and Ohio have shown that the dam is busted. It’s just a matter of time, and that time is sooner, not later. Jared Woodfill can try to build a wall of sand against the tide, but the tide is going to win. The only question is how much harm he will inflict on people like Noel Freeman and Brad Pritchett, and on the Harris County GOP, before he is forced to accept the inevitable. Texpatriate has more.