Houston Newsmakers July 16: Texas marriage equality interview with Jared Woodfill


MORE THAN TWO YEARS AGO WHEN THE SUPREME COURT RULED THAT SAME-SEX MARRIAGE WAS REALLY. IT WAS NOT THE END, ARGUING ONE POINT OR ANOTHER AROUND THE NOTION OF THE LAW THAT BENEFITS SUPPORTING THE MARRIAGE OF COUPLES OF THE SAME SEX. ONE OF THOSE LAWSUITS WAS HERE IN HOUSTON WHERE TWO TAXPAYERS ARGUED THEIR TAX MONEY SHOULD NOT BE USED TO SUPPORT ANY BENEFITS WITH SAME-SEX COUPLES. JARED WOODFILL WAS THE ATTORNEY FOR THOSE TAXPAYERS AND IT WENT TO THE TEXAS SUPREME COURT. JARED, GOOD TO SEE YOU.>>GOOD TO BE WITH YOU, KHAMBREL.>>IT’S BEEN A WHIL>>AND IT’S GREAT TO BE BACK.>>YOU’RE ALWAYS IN SOMETHING. HIGH COURT RULED THAT SAME-SEX COUPLES HAD NO INHERENT RIGHT TO TAXPAYERS’ SUBSIDIZED BENEFITS. THAT WAS NOT THE FINAL WORD. WE’RE ALWAYS SEEING LAWSUITS BEING FILED ON ONE HAND OR ANOTHER ABOUT THOSE KINDS OF THINGS. WHAT WAS IT ABOUT THE INITIAL RULINGS IN THIS COURT CASE THAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO GO FORWARD AND FEEL PRETTY CONFIDENT THAT YOU MIGHT BE ABLE TO WIN?>>YOU GO BACK TO DAY ONE N-2013 WHEN WE FILED THE LAWSUIT, MAYOR PARKER AT THE TIME JUST DECIDED TO IGNORE THE LAW, IGNORE THE TEXAS CONSTITUTION WHICH SAID MARRIAGE IS BETWEEN ONE MAN AND ONE WOMAN, IGNORE THE TEXAS MARRIAGE ACT AND ARTICLE 2, SECTION 22.>>IS THIS ALL ABOUT THE TEXAS AS OPPOSED TO THE SUPREME, WHICH IS A FEDERAL–>>THAT’S HOW IT STARTED. IT STARTED HERE IN TEXAS IN STATE COURT. WE FILED AN INJUNCTION. WE SAID–>>THIS WAS PREBERG ENFELD. THAT WAS THE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT TO MARRIAGE LICENSE. SO WHAT WE DID WAS WE ACTUALLY TOOK THEORY COURT BECAUSE, AT THIS TIME, THE LAW WAS, AS I DESCRIBED IT PREVIOUSLY, THE JUDGE AGREED WITH US, SAID THAT WHAT THE MAYOR HAD DONE WAS UNLAWFUL AND ILLEGAL. IT WENT TO THE COURT OF APPEALS, WHICH REVERSED. WE THEN TOOK IT TO THE SUPREME COURT. SUPREME COURT LOOKED AT THE ISSUE AND THE CITY HAS BEEN ARGUING THAT OBERGFELD SHOULD BE EXTENDED TO BENEFITS. THAT’S NOT WHAT OBERGFELD SAID. SUPREME COURT SAYS THEY WERE WRONG. IT WAS AN ATTEMPT BY THE CITY TO GET THE OBERGFELD DECISION EXPANDED INTO AN AREA THAT THE HIGH COURT CHOSE NOT TO GO.>>IN OBERGFELD, I DON’T USE THOSE TECHNICAL TERMS, BUT THAT DECISION WAS IN 2015, MAKING SAME-SEX MARRIAGE LEGAL ACROSS THE 50 STATES, RIGHT? THAT WAS A FEDERAL DECISION NOW, AND IN THAT, THEY TALKED ABOUT EQUAL DIGNITY AND ALL BENEFITS ASSOCIATED WITH IT. THAT WAS A PART OF THEIR WORDING. SO WHEN I SEE THAT HAPPENING, I THINK, OKAY, WELL, I UNDERSTAND THAT, BUT SOMEHOW, WHAT WAS THE WEAK PART THAT YOU SAW?>>THE POINT IN OBERGFELD WAS THAT SAME-SEX COUPLES HAD A RIGHT TO A MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE, AND THAT’S WHERE IT ENDED. OUR CASE SPECIFICALLY GOES AND TALKS ABOUT BENEFITS. THERE’S NEVER BEEN A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT TO BENEFITS. GOVERNMENTS DISTINGUISH ON BENEFITS ALL THE TIME, WHETHER YOU’RE 65 OR OLDER WILL AFFECT WHETHER OR NOT YOU GET BENEFITS FROM THE CITY OR FROM MEDICAID, MEDICARE.>>WHEN THEY WORDED SUCH THAT THEY SHOULD BE MARRIED, OPPOSITE SEX COUPLES SHOULD HAVE THE SAMBENEFITS AS SAME-SEX COUPLES, YOU’RE SAYING THEY DIDN’T MEAN BENEFITS–>>WELL, READ THE CLEAR LANGUAGE. IT DIDN’T EVEN SAY THAT. SUPREME COURT SAID THAT WAS NEVER ADDRESSED IN THE OBERGFELD DECISION. IN 2007, TEXANS OVERWHELMINGLY SAID IN THE FORM OF A INSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT, ARTICLE 1, SECTION 32, THAT MARRIAGE IS BETWEEN ONE MAN AND ONE WOMAN. THAT PASSED WITH 76% OF THE VOTE. THIS HAPPENED ALL ACROSS THE COUNTRY IN VARIOUS STATES. 2013 OR SO, THE U.S. SUPREME COURT SAID, YES, MARRIAGE IS THE PROVINCES OF THE STATE. IT WAS A 5-4 DECISION THEN. THEN YOU HAVE OBERGFELD, ON JUSTICE CHANGED HIS MIND, JUSTICE ANTHONY KENNEDY, AND UNDID THE VOTES OF MILLIONS OF AMERICANS ALL ACROSSESS THIS COUNTRY.>>SO WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT THE SUPREME COURT, THEY ARE THE LAW OF THE LAND. YOU’RE LOOKING AT IT AS THE STANDPOINT OF A FEDERAL LAW AS OPPOSED TO A STATES’ RIGHTS SITUATION. IS THAT WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO?>>IT’S BROKEN UP INTO TWO.>>IF YOU’RE GOING TO OBSERVE SOMEONE AND SAY YOU’RE MARRIED BUT YOU’RE NOT REALLY MARRIED AS IT RELATES TO GETTING BENEFITS. I’M PLAYING DEVIL’S ADVOCATE.>>I UNDERSTAND. THE DISTINCTION THERE IS OBERGFELD DID NOT DEAL WITH BENEFITS. BENEFITS ARE ADULT FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS TO BENEFITS. PEOPLE ARE TREATED DIFFERENTLY WITH RESPECT TO BENEFITS ALL THE TIME. IF SOMEONE IS A SMOKER VERSUS A NONSMOKER, THAT PERSON IS TREATED DIFFERENTLY WITH RESPECT TO BENEFITS.>>KNOWING WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW NOW, WHAT DO YOU THINK YOUR CHANCES ARE WHEN IT GETS TO THAT POINT? YOU AND I AGREE THAT THIS IS NOT GOING TO END AT THE TEXAS SUPREME COURT. AGREED?>>AGREED. IT’S GOING TO THE U.S. SUPREME COURT ULTIMATELY. THE QUESTION IS WHEN. WHO KNOWS WHAT THE CHARACTER OF THE COURT WILL LOOK LIKE AT THAT TIME. WE KNOW THAT THINGS CAN CHANGE WITH ONE PERSON CHANGING THEIR MIND. IN THIS CASE, ANTHONY KENNEDY DECIDED TO CHANGE HIS MIND OVER A TWO-YEAR PERIOD, UNDO MARRIAGE AMENDMENTS ALL ACROSS THE COUNTRY. WE KNOW THAT THE CHARACTER OF THE COURT IS LIKELY TO CHANGE UNDER THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION SO, BY THE TIME THIS CASE GETS THERE, IT WILL DEPEND ON WHAT THE COMPETITION OF THE COURT MAKE-UP IS.>>ONE THING ABOUT THE TEXAS SUPREME COURT IS THAT THEY RULED 8-1 THAT THEY WEREN’T EVEN GOING TO TAKE THIS CASE UP, AND THEN THERE WAS POLITICAL INPUT FROM THE GOVERNOR, LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR AND A LOT OF OTHER PEOPLE ABOUT THAT. I KNOW YOU’RE NOT CONCERNED ABOUT IT BECAUSE IT HELPS YOU IN THIS CASE, BUT POLITICAL INVOLVEMENT ON THE JUDICIARY LEVEL, AT WHAT POINT IS THAT GOING TO BE A PROBLEM FOR THE WAY WE GOVERN? YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN? AT SOME POINT, IT COULD GO THE OTHER WAY.>>BUT LET’S LOOK AT WHAT REALLY HAPPENED THERE. THE GOVERNOR ROTATE AN AMICUS BRIEF, THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR, NEUROMUSCULAR REPRESENTATIVES OF THE LEGISLATORS SIGNED ONTO THE AMICUS, BUT AT THE SAME TIME, SO DID WITH A LOT OF FOLKS WHO HAD A DIFFERENT VIEW, SO I THINK THE SUPREME COURT LOOKED AND SAID, WOW, LOOK AT ALL OF THESE PEOPLE WHO DECIDED TO WEIGH IN ON THIS ISSUE, IT MUST BE AN ISSUE THAT’S IMPORTANT TO THE JURIS PRUDENCE OF THE STATE. THE FACT THAT SO MANY DIFFERENT GROUPS FROM BOTH SIDES CHOSE TO WROTE AMICUS BRIEFS, OR FRIEND OF THE COURT BRIEFS, CAUSED THE SUPREME COURT TO SAY, HEY, MAYBE WE SHOULD LOOK AT THIS.>>SPECIAL LEGISLATIVE SESSION COMING UP. WHAT IS IT THAT YOU’RE MOST INTERESTED IN SEEING COME OUT OF IT?>>WE HAD THE HERO FIGHT IN HOUSTON. WE OVERWHELMINGLY PASSED LEGISLATION, OR KEPT BIOLOGICAL MALES WHO BELIEVE THEY’RE A WOMAN ANY TIME FROM GOING INTO FEMALE REST ROOMS, SHOWERS OR LOCKER ROOMS, GIRLS REST ROOMS, SHOWERS OR LOCKER ROOMS. YOU SAW THAT LISTING.>>HAS THERE BEEN A CASE AT ALL?>>OH, ABSOLUTELY. THERE WAS ONE JUST RECENTLY UP IN THE WOODLANDS, AT A TARGET IN THE WOODLANDS, AND WE’VE SEEN LOTS OF INCIDENCES.>>THE LAWS ARE ON THE BOOKS ALREADY?>>NO, NOT YET. THAT’S ONE OF THE THINGS WE’RE ARGUIN SB-6 PASSED OVERWHELMINGLY, 21-10, THEN THE GOVERNOR MADE IT A PRIORITY, IT DIED IN THE HOUS THAT’S ONE OF MANY ISSUES. SCHOOL CHOICE. CAME TO THE SENATE, DIES IN THE HOUSE, IS NOW ANOTHER PRIORITY OF THE GOVERNOR. YOU HAVE A SPEAKER IN JOE STRAWS WHO HAS SINGLE HANDEDLY KILLING GOOD LEGISLATION THAT HAS BEEN PASSED IN THE SENATE THAT IS THE GOVERNOR’S PRIORITY AND ONE MAN SHOULDN’T HAVE THAT MUCH POWER.>>I GET THE SENSE THAT MR. STRAWS IS IN YOUR BULLSEYE OF YOU AND OTHER CONSERVATIVES–>>WELL, HE SHOULD BE IN THE BULLSEYE OF EVERY SINGLE CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICAN OR EVERY PERSON WHO BELIEVES IN GOOD GOVERNMENT AND THAT THEIR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES SHOULD VOTE ON ISSUES, BECAUSE HE’S NOT ALLOWING US TO VOTE.>>YOU KNOW, IF YOU COULD SEE JUST COME ON THIS SHOW AND HAVING AN OPINION! JARED WOODFILL, ALWAYS GOOD TO SEE YOU.

Michael Martin

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