HOUSTON: Mayor Annise Parker Grants City Benefits To Married Gay Couples

Lone Star Q reports that Houston Mayor Annise Parker today announced that city employees who are legally married in other states are now eligible for spousal benefits. From the press release issued by Parker’s office:

A 2001 voter-approved City Charter amendment has previously been relied upon as the basis for prohibiting the granting of same-sex benefits. However, the amendment specifically permits benefits to be provided to “legal spouses” of employees. After a careful review of recent case law, the city legal department believes continued application of the charter amendment so as to deny same-sex spousal benefits would be unlawful because it treats employees differently on the basis of sexual orientation. “Based on the right to equal protection under the law, it is unconstitutional for the city to continue to deny benefits to the same-sex spouses of our employees who are legally married,” said Mayor Parker. “This change is not only the legal thing to do, it is the right, just and fair thing to do.”

Such benefits are already available in other major Texas cities: Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth and San Antonio.  Lone Star Q notes that Parker will likely be challenged by Texas state Attorney General Greg Abbott, who earlier this year declared that all Texas cities that offer same-sex partner benefits are in violation of the state constitution. Parker was reelected to her third and final mayoral term earlier this month. Abbott is running for governor. Houston is the nation’s fourth-largest city.