Houston and its lesbian mayor being sued over offering then rescinding same-sex benefits

Lambda Legal files federal lawsuit seeking to preserve benefits for partners of city employees

Houston and its lesbian mayor being sued over offering then rescinding same-sex benefits
26 December 2013

Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit today (26 December) against the city of Houston to try and preserve health insurance and other benefits for the same-sex partners of city employees.

The lawsuit names the city and its mayor, Annise Parker, who happens to be a lesbian.

The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas on behalf three City of Houston employees. They were legally married to same-sex spouses in other states since same-sex marriage is not legal in Texas.

The city, led by Parker, extended employee coverage to same-sex spouses in late November but one month later, canceled the coverage.

‘They enrolled for spousal benefits, including health insurance, paid the premiums, scheduled doctor visits and underwent treatments that will require ongoing care. Now, suddenly, the rug is pulled out from under them,’ said Kenneth Upton, senior counsel in Lambda Legal’s South Central Regional Office in Dallas.

‘At the end of the day this case is about equal pay for equal work,’ Upton added. ‘These employees, some who have worked for the city for many years, acted in good faith when notified the city was extending health coverage benefits to their legal spouses.’

Parker had announced on 20 November that all lawfully-married city employees, including those who married same-sex partners in jurisdictions where such marriages are legal, would be eligible to enroll for spousal benefits, including health insurance coverage, under the city’s employee benefits health plan.

Shortly after the announcement, two Houston taxpayers sued the Parker and the city claiming the benefits were illegal. They were able to secure a temporary restraining order blocking the benefits.

The city is defending against the legal challenge but has rescinded the benefits for now.

‘The notice from the City was like a punch in the stomach,’ said Noel Freeman, lead plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Freeman, administrative coordinator with the city’s Public Works & Engineering Office, said he signed his husband of 11 years up ‘within an hour of finding out’ about the benefits.

‘And now, just a month later, they tell us they’re going to have to take it away … How is this fair?’

The other plaintiffs in the lawsuit are a Houston police officer and her wife of less than a year and a systems administrator and his husband of more than five years.

HAVE YOUR SAY

MORE TOP STORIES

No thumbnail available

Trans tortured and brutally killed in Mexico

Another transsexual has been found dead, tortured and brutally killed in Apodaca, Mexico.
No thumbnail available

New HIV vaccine trial hopes to improve on Thailand's promising results

Following the 2009 HIV vaccine trial in Thailand which found 30% effectiveness in fighting off infection, a new trial is about to start in London
No thumbnail available

40% of the world’s gays still face being criminalized in their homelands

A new analysis by The Mirror newspaper has found that 40% of the world’s gay population are living in countries that still criminalize gay sex – including a handful with the death penalty
No thumbnail available

Gay marriage has strengthened Canadian society, Anglican Rev tells New Zealand

Gay Anglican reverend tells St Paul's Cathedral in Dunedin that gay marriage has increased respect and tolerance in Canada
7 eye-rollingly awkward questions you’ll get asked as a gay dad

7 eye-rollingly awkward questions you’ll get asked as a gay dad

'Soooo… sperm?’ And other exasperating queries gay dads get asked, as captured in a new video by Gays With Kids
No thumbnail available

Landmark court ruling to allow Kenyan gay rights organizations to officially register

The High Court has ordered the government to officially recognize the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission after the group was rejected five times
No thumbnail available

NY gay black and Latino bar forced out by landlord

No Parking, the first gay bar in Washington Heights in upper Manhattan, closed this past weekend to make way for a Planet Fitness gym
Meet the 14 openly gay or bisexual soccer stars at the Women's World Cup

Meet the 14 openly gay or bisexual soccer stars at the Women's World Cup

These footballers are paving the way for equality in sport
No thumbnail available

Every 28 hours a LGBTI person is killed in Brazil

Death of a trans samba dancer reveals how deeply homophobia and transphobia are rooted in Brazil
No thumbnail available

Dolce and Gabbana: We love Elton John and don't judge on IVF

'We love gay couple. We love gay adoption. We love everything'