Houston rebuffed by Supreme Court on same-sex benefits policy

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(Bloomberg) – The U.S. Supreme Court sidestepped a clash over Houston’s practice of providing benefits to the same-sex spouses of city employees, leaving intact a Texas Supreme Court decision that calls the city’s policy into question.

The justices, without comment or published dissent, rejected the city’s appeal, which pointed to the court’s 2015 ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. The rejection Monday doesn’t preclude the Supreme Court from taking up the dispute later.

The Texas court had said the 2015 gay-marriage ruling "did not hold that states must provide the same publicly funded benefits to all married persons." The Texas ruling revived a lawsuit by two Houston residents who said the city was violating state law.

The high court’s approach with the Houston case stands in contrast to its handling of a separate case in June, when a majority said Arkansas violated the Constitution by making it harder for the female spouses of new mothers to get their name on birth certificates than male spouses.

The U.S. Supreme Court this week is considering gay-marriage rights in a different context. The justices will decide whether a Colorado baker has a free speech right refuse to make wedding cakes for same-sex marriages.

The Texas case is Turner v. Pidgeon, 17-424.

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