Houston Mayor Annise Parker is being accused of instituting “mob rule” after imposing a policy that will pay benefits to same-sex couples who have been legally married.
Jared Woodfill, chairman of the local Harris County Republican Party, has signed on to a lawsuit in response, charging the mayor “unilaterally disposed of the Houston City Charter and the Texas Constitution without anything even resembling democratic process.”
Parker announced Nov. 20 that the new policy will offer health and life insurance benefits to all spouses of legally married employees, including same-sex couples.
A voter-approved charter amendment in 2001, however, banned benefits to same-sex couples.
Parker has lived in a lesbian relationship with Kathy Hubbard for 24 years but will remain ineligible for benefits because she is not legally married, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Woodfill asked: “If that is what Mayor Parker thinks of law and order, how can she effectively serve as the chief executive officer of a large municipality, whose first duty is to ensure law and order?”
He said that if the city loses “the rule of law, we give into to mob rule and crony politics, aptly described once as the ‘Chicago way.’”
“Texas and Houston will not permit would-be anarchy to become the default standard of government in this city,” he said.
Parker based her decision on the right to equal protection in the U.S. Constitution.
According to that right, she argued, it’s “unconstitutional for the city to continue to deny benefits to the same-sex spouses of our employees who are legally married.”
“This change is not only the legal thing to do, it is the right, just and fair thing to do,” she said.
The city’s 2001 charter amendment, however, states: “Except as required by state or federal law, the city of Houston shall not provide employment benefits, including health care, to persons other than employees, their legal spouses and dependent children.”
Parker believes the language applies to any and all marriages even if not recognized in every state. Texas statutes still reflect the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) ethos of “one man and one woman.” Same-sex marriages conducted in any jurisdiction where the act is legal, including foreign countries and 17 states, will be recognized, Parker declared.
Parker’s “equality” argument, however, apparently does not accommodate polygamous marriages, which are recognized in some parts of the world.
“The amendment specifically permits benefits to be provided to legal spouses of employees,” Parker said. “I can only assume that it was contemplated that there would never be a time when same-sex couples were in legally sanctioned relationships.”
Parker said the Texas Defense of Marriage Act can be ignored because the U.S. Constitution supersedes any state law.
Not the mayor’s job?
Woodfill argued that for case law to be applied at the local level, “test cases are often necessary, but these should come from citizens petitioning for a lack of constitutional protection or for perceived inequality, not the mayor of the third largest city in the U.S. blatantly and brazenly violating the laws passed by the people’s duly elected representatives in Texas and at the federal level.”
Dave Welch, president of the U.S. Pastor’s Council, also has signed on to the lawsuit against Parker’s policy.
“Mayor Parker has again shown that those who reject the existence of a moral law undergirding civil law have no reservations about running roughshod over such mundane items as state constitutions, city charters and the basic rule of law,” Welch said.
He said Parker’s “unilateral act of recognizing same-sex marriages from other states and extending employee benefits to those ‘spouses’ follows the same path of anarchy as her good friend Gavin Newsom, mayor of San Francisco who likewise defied state law.”
“Her re-election is not a mandate for monarchy nor anarchy, so she can rest assured the pastors of the city will take this all the way to the state Supreme Court and beyond if needed to force her to obey the laws of man even if she denies the laws of God,” he said.
Jonathan Saenz, president and attorney for the non-profit advocacy group Texas Values, told WND it’s “outrageous that Mayor Parker and the city of Houston think they have the authority to rewrite the Texas Constitution on marriage and blatantly ignore their citizen-approved city charter.”
“Mayor Parker’s self-serving efforts to force city staff to willfully violate the Texas Constitution is one of the most dangerous and egregious forms of a Washington-style power grab I have ever seen,” Saenz said. “She’s practically telling Gov. Perry, Attorney General Abbott and the people of Texas to ‘Come and Take It.’”
Saenz said he believed Parker was instituting a form of “mob rule.”
“I’m not aware of any precedent that gives the mayor the authority to do what she did on this issue. Houston is a political subdivision of the state of Texas and is in violation of the state law and state constitutions,” he said.
Saenz said the mayor’s move “shows that she clearly does not respect the rule of law, and she clearly does not respect the people of the state of Texas who went to the ballot to vote on a constitutional amendment for the definition of marriage.”
“That’s a dangerous place for elected officials to think that they can go around picking whatever laws they want to follow and whatever laws they want to violate. It’s as if they are a law unto themselves,” he said.
The city of Houston already has established a reputation for making it difficult for Christian pastors to express their message, with tickets being issued for over the thickness of signs.