TRO on Pidgeon lifted

The case of Pidgeon v. Parker, in which Republicans sued the City of Houston over a new policy granting full spousal benefits to all legally married couples with a member working for the municipality (read: same-sex couples), has seen its temporary restraining order blocking the enforcement of the policy lifted. Last month, a Family District Judge granted the order, but the case was recently moved to Federal Court.

Now, the Houston Chronicle reports that Judge Lee Rosenthal (a Bush 41 appointee) has lifted that order, at least for the time being. While the Family Judge’s (Lisa Millard) ruling indicated there to be a high likelihood of the plaintiffs prevailing on the merits, Judge Rosenthal’s decision simply means the case will go on and may very well have a trial. Jared Woodfill, the Chairman of the Harris County GOP and the plaintiff’s attorney, was quick to play this difference as somewhat insignificant in the long run:

Judge Millard’s position was that the Mayor’s actions were illegal and unlawful and she immediately restrained the Mayor from going forward. This judge has not decided whether the Mayor’s actions were illegal, so she gave us more time to do additional briefing,” Woodfill said.

Click here to read more!

TRO issued over gay benefits

Texpatriate has learned that a District Court Judge in Houston has approved a request for a temporary restraining order enjoining enforcement of a recent policy to give full spousal benefits to the same-sex spouses of municipal employees. Just earlier today, we noted that the Harris County Republican Party had sued the City of Houston over the new policy. In a summary ruling before Judge Lisa Millard, enforcement of the measure (which has already gone into effect) is blocked until a hearing may be held on it on January 6th of next year. No word yet on what this means for those couples who have already received the benefits; the Mayor’s office has not released any statement as of press time.

The order, from Judge Lisa Millard of the 310th Family District Court, contends that there is a strong case to be made that plaintiffs (in this case, the HCRP) that they were suffer irrevocable harm if the policy is allowed to continue. Again, I don’t see how in the world these people have standing, as they do not work for the City of Houston. Another interest perspective is that Judge Millard is elected in a partisan election where she affiliates as a Republican, meaning that she is a member in the HCRP, the same organization now with a suit before her court. I should think this would present an argument to relocate the proceedings to either a judge in Harris County NOT affiliated with the HCRP or one from another County.

Click here to read the most infuriating detail of all!

GOP sues over benefits

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.

Click here to read more about the HCRP’s lawsuit!

Devon Anderson appointed D.A.

The Houston Chronicle reports that Governor Perry has appointed Devon Anderson, former Judge and widow of previous District Attorney Mike Anderson, has been appointed the new District Attorney of Harris County.

Yesterday, Jared Woodfill (Chairman of the Harris County Republican Party) wrote an open letter to the Governor recommending Devon Anderson (hereafter, “Anderson”) to the post. Anderson has a longtime prosecutor over the years, and served as a Judge in a Criminal District Court for one four-year term.

My colleague David Jennings at Big Jolly Politics has some words to say on this topic earlier today, back before Governor Perry made the official appointment. Jennings, who reminded everyone that Woodfill actually supported Pat Lykos (Mike Anderson’s primary opponent last year), published an open resolution from the Harris County Republican Party’s Executive Committee that showed they definitively took no stance on who should be appointed by the Governor. I will give him credit for pointing at the Chronicle article yesterday, which insinuated the “Harris GOP” was behind the push, was somewhat misleading. It was Woodfill in an individual capacity, not on behalf of the larger party.

This, however, begs the question of what about Anderson, a former Republican officeholder, is so offensive to the Republican establishment. Jennings insinuates that Anderson is pro-choice, which I have no information on.

I did not have much of a preference on the new District Attorney, given that all of them were Republicans. In fact, I was completely unaware of the candidates other than Belinda Hill until yesterday. I suppose I would have preferred one of the Lykos allies such as Rachel Palmer (she got exonerated today, by the way) in the office, but it is all a moot point now.

I assume Anderson will be running for the remainder of the term in 2014, so the Democrats need to find a new candidate. The Democrats fell on their sword last year when it came to selecting a nominee, and yet that nominee received 48% of the vote. Just think what we could do if someone who wasn’t a maladjusted perennial candidate had been nominated?

Another Anderson for DA?

The Houston Chronicle reports on the growing draft movement of Devon Anderson for Harris County District Attorney. Devon Anderson is the widow of Mike Anderson, the late District Attorney who passed away last month after a battle with cancer. Shortly thereafter, the first assistant DA, Belinda Hill, became the official Acting District Attorney. It is the ultimate responsibility of Governor Perry, of course, to appoint a replacement to serve until a Special Election may be held next November.

Jared Woodfill, the Chairman of the Harris County Republican Party, made the official suggestion in an open letter to Governor Perry. As the Chronicle reported, Woodfill said: “The person who would be the best to fill Mike’s shoes, and they’re big shoes to fill, would be his wife. I’m hopeful that the governor will appoint her to carry on Mike’s legacy. She’s very, very qualified for the position.”

Devon Anderson is not just the widow of the previous officeholder, she is a very experienced attorney and jurist in her own right. A longtime prosecutor herself, Devon Anderson served as Judge of the 177th District Court (Criminal felonies) for one term, from 2005 to 2009. At that time, she was defeated by Kevin Fine, a Democrat (Fine later resigned mid-term; his replacement, Republican Ryan Patrick, was re-elected in 2012).

Reportedly, (acting DA) Belinda Hill is also interested in maintaining the office permanently. KTRK notes a list of four other candidates being discussed by local Republicans. Given that Perry makes the call, it is a forgone conclusion that a Republican will get the nod. The other names include Marc Carter, the Judge of the 228th District Court (Criminal felonies).

Jim Leitner, a key Lykos aide, and Rachel Palmer, both prosecutors, were other names mentioned. Palmer has some skeletons in her closet relating to being investigated for criminal wrongdoing and pleading the fifth. Leitner was also involved in this controversy.

The last name mentioned by the KTRK article is Ted Poe. Being a Congressman with unbelievable job security, and being a mere 65 years of age, I cannot understand why Poe would consider leaving Capitol Hill for this job.

When all is said and done, it will be Perry’s decision. In the State’s largest County, Perry (& his advisers) probably have quite a few opinions of his own, so I do not think recommendations from the local level will affect the outcome all that much.