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City Attorney cites procedural issues suit against same sex benefits

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Following the last Houston City Council meeting of the year Wednesday, December 18, Mayor Parker and Houston City Attorney fielded questions about a Family court judge's Temporary Restraining Order against the policy on benefits for same-sex couples.

Feldman stated that the City had not yet been served with the order. He stated that the plaintiffs obtained the order just after 5:00 PM late Tuesday. The complaint was filed in the Family Court, which normally hears cases on divorce and custody matters where the party affected is frequently not present. The normal court for this type of suit would have been the District Court. He also stated that his office received not complaint or other notice. Only a phone call saying they needed to be in court. When he called the court, there was no response.

On the other hand, as soon as the order was signed Jarod Woodfill, chairman of the Harris County Republican Party sent an e-mail to party activists announcing that republicans had secured the obtained the order. In response to a question about the plaintiffs, Feldman stated only that an individual was named.

The order calls for a hearing on January 6. Typically, a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) is issued when the plaintiff shows that there is an urgent matter that must be stopped to prevent harm or other damage, and that there is a reasonable likelihood of prevailing in a obtaining a permanent injunction after a full hearing. But, according to Feldman, under Texas law, a TRO lasts only 14 days. He said, “you can do the math.” Since the order was signed on December 17, it will expire on January 1, 6 days before the hearing. It is not clear what effect, if any, it will have on any payments between now and its expiration.

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