UPDATE: Houston to appeal order halting benefits

Mayor Annise Parker

Mayor Annise Parker

The city of Houston plans to appeal an order halting same-sex benefits on Thursday, according to The Houston Chronicle.

City Attorney David Feldman said the city didn’t receive notice before a judge held a hearing Tuesday and issued the order. Feldman is also questioning how a lawsuit filed by Harris County GOP Chair Jared Woodfill on behalf of two taxpayers challenging the benefits ended up in family court instead of civil district court. State District Judge Lisa Millard, a Republican who presides over the 310th Family District Court, issued the order halting the benefits pending a hearing on Jan. 6.

“If this had been filed in a regular civil district court, be assured the city would have received notice and been given the opportunity to be there before any restraining order was entered,” Feldman told the Chronicle.

Woodfill said the case belongs in family court because it deals in part with a section of the Texas Family Code passed in 2003 that bans recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages. Woodfill also said he hopes Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott will intervene in the case.

Earlier this year, Abbott issued a nonbinding opinion saying he believes benefits offered to same-sex partners by local government entities are illegal in Texas. Abbott, a Republican who’s running for governor in 2014, has also intervened to block same-sex couples legally married in other state from getting divorced in Texas.

In addition the procedural issues cited by Feldman, an LGBT legal expert told Lone Star Q on Wednesday he believes the lawsuit “seems like a loser” given that government employers are bound by the constitutional principle of equal protection.