Lambda Legal Says Same-Sex Couples Must Be Included in Case Deciding Fate of Spousal Benefits

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January 9, 2014

Lambda Legal today asked a U.S. District Court judge to combine two separate lawsuits filed against Houston Mayor Annise Parker and the City of Houston, one seeking to prevent and the other to preserve the extension of spousal benefits, including health insurance, to the same-sex spouses of city employees.

Kenneth Upton, Senior Counsel in Lambda Legal’s South Central Regional Office in Dallas, said:

The couples in our lawsuit stand to lose a great deal if the spousal benefits are removed and so their interests must be represented in the case brought by antigay taxpayers that challenges the City’s right to extend the benefits. Furthermore, these cases should be consolidated because as it stands now Mayor Parker and the City of Houston could find themselves facing conflicting judgments when all they are trying to do is ensure all city employees are treated equally.

Some have asked why we are suing the Mayor and the City when they are trying to do the right thing. It’s precisely to support them that we are suing them.We are seeking a court order that will reinforce Mayor Parker and the City’s decision by compelling her to do that which she wants to do. And that is why these two cases should be combined.

On December 26, 2013, Lambda Legal filed Freeman v. Parker and City of Houston in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas on behalf three City of Houston employees legally married to their same-sex spouses after the city notified them that the benefits they signed up for, including health insurance, may be discontinued. The notification came after two Houston taxpayers sued the Mayor and the City in Family Law Court claiming the benefits were illegal and, without giving the Mayor or the City proper notice, secured a temporary restraining order (TRO) blocking extension of the benefits.

On December 27, 2013, the City removed the taxpayer lawsuit (Pidgeon v. Parker and City of Houston) to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. A U.S. District Court judge declined to extend the original TRO or issue a new one after a hearing on January 2, 2014.Lambda Legal is asking the court to consolidate the Freeman and Pidgeon cases. Lambda Legal previously filed a motion to intervene in the Pidgeon lawsuit in case the court decides not to consolidate the two.

In Freeman v. Parker and City of Houston, Lambda Legal is representing: Noel Freeman, an administrative coordinator with the City of Houston Public Works & Engineering Office and a nine-year employee of the City, who married his husband, Brad Pritchett, in Washington, DC, on Aug. 1, 2010; Yadira Estrada, a City of Houston police officer for more than five years who married her partner of seven years, Jennifer Flores, in Maine this past June; and Ron Reeser, a systems support analyst employed by the City for eight-plus years and who married his husband, Vince Olivier, in Canada in 2008 after they had been together for more than two years.

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