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Masterpiece Cakeshop Is Fighting for the First Amendment, Not Against Gay Marriage


Today, the Texas Supreme Court ruled unanimously that married gay couples have no "inherent right" to the same benefits that the government affords to straight married couples.

The matter, however, is not settled: Friday's ruling means the case returns to Harris County district court, which will determine if the SCOTUS marriage ruling actually applies to benefits provided by the city of Houston.

Rather, it says the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision recognizing gay marriage two years ago in Obergefell v. Hodges did not resolve whether employees' same-sex spouses have a right to benefits.

The Texas court only agreed to hear it after coming under intense pressure from Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton, as well as dozens of other conservative elected officials, church leaders and grassroots activists.

The case arose out of then-Houston Mayor Annise Parker's 2013 decision to grant benefits to same-sex spouses of city employees who had married in other states.

It's somewhat surprising that the Texas Supreme Court acknowledged Pavan at all because any plausible reading of that decision clearly resolves Pidgeon.

The state Supreme Court's ruling essentially wipes that slate clean and instructs the trial court to reconsider the case.

US House passes bill named after murdered Cal Poly grad
The House also voted, 257-167, in favor of legislation increasing penalties for those who re-enter the USA after being deported. A bill known as " Kate's Law " would impose harsher prison sentences on deportees who re-enter the United States.

While proponents of Houston's marriage benefits policy argued that "marriage-related benefits" were covered by the Obergefell decision, Jonathan Mitchell, lawyer for the opponents to Houston's policy and former Texas solicitor general, argued the opposite and said that marriage benefits are not basic rights.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer advocacy organizations condemned the decision as undercutting marriage equality.

The groups argued that the U.S. Supreme Court didn't declare spousal benefits a fundamental right of marriage, and that it should be up to states to decide.

The city of Houston, the defendant in the case, is expected appeal the ruling. In addition to reversing the lower court's ruling, the Court sent the case back to the Houston trial court for further litigation and acknowledged that ambiguities in the Obergefell decision would inevitably lead to more such cases for courts to hash out.

As this Court explained in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Constitution entitles same-sex couples to civil marriage "on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples".

The Court reaffirmed that view just this month, ruling against an Arkansas birth certificate law that discriminated against gay parents. Equality Texas called it "patently indefensible", and Lambda Legal said it "defies all logic and reason".

The city did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but plaintiffs' attorney Jared Woodfill cheered the decision as "a huge win".

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