Government officials are sued all the time. But it’s not every day that one of the nation’s premier LGBT legal groups sues the lesbian mayor of a major U.S. city. Lambda Legal has filed a lawsuit against Houston Mayor Annise Parker for rescinding health benefits for the same-sex spouses of city workers less than a month after making the benefits available.
Parker was trying to get ahead of the marriage curve when she announced last month that any legally married city worker, including lesbian and gay workers who married in other states, would be able to take advantage of spousal health benefits. Texas being Texas, two Houstonians, including the county Republican party chair, sued the city, claiming the benefits were illegal. The city is defending itself against that challenge, but in the meantime a judge issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the city from offering the benefits.
Hence the lawsuit, filed on behalf of three city employees who were wed in states where marriage equality is legal. The employees enrolled for the benefits. “Now, suddenly, the rug is pulled out from under them,” Lambda Legal senior counsel Kenneth Upton told Gay Star News.
Parker was taking a risk moving forward with the benefits in the first place. The state attorney general’s office issued an opinion in April saying any municipality that offered same-sex benefits was in violation of the state constitution. A court hearing in the case is scheduled for January 6.