Judge halts Houston’s same-sex benefits program

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HOUSTON, TX – This was the scene last month when Mayor Parker said same-sex partners of city employees would get health and insurance benefits.

But thanks to Family District Court Judge Lisa Millard, all that will have to wait until after the first of the year.

The judge issued a temporary restraining order this week, putting the policy on hold until at least January 6 because of a lawsuit filed by Harris County Republicans.

“The case also is in a family district court, which is quite unusual,” noted city attorney David Feldman. “Those courts are accustomed to entering order in divorce cases where the other party may not appear. I don’t think this would have happened in a regular civil district court.”

Groups like Legacy Community Health Services say the mayor’s plan is an issue of fairness and personal responsibility. Randall Ellis is the organizations vice president.

“Not being able to allow partners onto benefits that city workers currently have, it’s not fair, it’s not equal protection under the law.”

But the court challenge should not have been a surprise, since the party’s chairman posted a statement online in November calling the mayor’s move an abuse of her office.

He based it on same-sex marriage bans in the Texas constitution and the city charter.

So, until the court decides otherwise, the term friends with benefits will continue to have another meaning to same-sex partners in Houston.