The Houston Chronicle reports that that Harris County Republican Party has officially sued the City of Houston in response to a recent policy enacted that extends full spousal benefits to same-sex spouses. The policy, which was announced last month, simply allows City employees legally married in another state –irrespective of sexual orientation– to receive full spousal benefits from the City of Houston. Mayor Parker and her city attorney, David Feldman, have previously argued that this ordinance was justified because the Supreme Court, in striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, signaled that same-sex marriages should be recognized nationwide, no matter where they were performed.
This is significant because both Houston and Texas have some rather homophobic laws on the books. First, the Texas Constitution bans same-sex marriage as well both civil unions and domestic partnerships. Second, the City of Houston prohibits domestic partnerships by charter amendment. However, that charter amendment was significant because it specifically referenced those couples who were not married (approved in 2001, it occurred when gay marriage was not legal anywhere in the world). Now that marriages between same-sex couples are somewhat more ubiquitous throughout the country, including neighboring New Mexico, the intent of the amendment –though not the literal wording– has been challenged.
Jared Woodfill, Chairman of the HCRP and immediate filer of a lawsuit against the benefits, had this to say: “This is one of the most egregious acts by an elected official I’ve ever seen. They just decided to, unilaterally, as a lame duck, thumb their nose at the will of the people and just spit on the U.S. Constitution.”
I’m not quite sure what Woodfill means by ‘lame duck,’ because Parker was recently re-elected. Anyways, City Attorney Feldman appeared somewhat confident that the lawsuit will be thrown out on its face because neither Woodfill nor the HCRP actually maintained standing in the case. The idea begs a more important question of who does have standing in the case; I would reckon an unmarried City Employee would bring the most logical complaint.
This predictable action by the Harris County Republican Party is just helping to dig its own grave. The Republicans have very weak competition in this county, as it simply campaigns against a party that –despite being lead by venerable forces– is filled with members too incompetent/lazy to fill the ballot. Taking up such a disastrously unpopular position as homophobia does nothing to dispel the notion that Republicans are simply old and bigoted folks; in fact, it actively perpetuates it. If the Democrats win in 2014, it will be because of things like this.