Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has been in office less than three months, but he's already making a name for himself as one of the nation's biggest anti-gay bigots.
Last month, Paxton (above with Sen. Ted Cruz) sought to void the marriage of a 30-year lesbian couple, even though one of the women has ovarian cancer. And last week, he filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration over a new labor department rule extending benefits under the Family & Medical Leave Act to same-sex couples who live in states that don't recognize their marriages.
On Thursday, Paxton — a "tea partier" who admitted to securities fraud last year — won a small, temporary victory in his ongoing war against LGBT people.
U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, a President George W. Bush appointee, issued an order blocking the new FMLA rule from taking effect as scheduled on Friday in Texas and three other states that joined Paxton's lawsuit — Arkansas, Louisiana and Nebraska.
“The Obama Administration’s attempt to force employers to recognize same-sex marriages would have put state agencies in the position of either violating Texas law or federal regulations,” Paxton said in a statement. “We are pleased that the Department of Labor’s effort to override our laws via federal rulemaking has been halted, and we will continue to defend our sovereignty in this case.”
Judge O'Connor (right) presides over the Northern District of Texas in Wichita Falls, an extremely conservative area that has brought us, among others, the Rev. Robert Jeffress. In his 24-page decision, O'Connor wrote that if the new FMLA rule was allowed to take effect, "irreparable injury would occur." From the decision:
“The Full Faith and Credit Statute affirms Congress’ intention to reserve the power to define marriage and accompanying rights and benefits to the states, and Windsor cabins Congress’ authority to aggrandize that power. Congress could not have delegated to the Department the power to define marriage in a way as to override the laws of states prohibiting same-sex marriages.”
The Human Rights Campaign issued this statement in response to O'Connor's ruling:
“No legally married same-sex couple should be denied family leave simply because they happen to live in a state that fails to respect their marriage,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “Because of Judge O’Connor’s decision, countless legally married same-sex couples in Texas are now unable to access to their federal FMLA benefits. With a pending Supreme Court decision on nationwide marriage equality this summer, we are confident that justice will ultimately prevail.”
In other words, if the U.S. Supreme Court issues a nationwide decision in favor of marriage equality in June, Paxton's lawsuit will quickly go away.
Therefore, it's quite possible that the only thing Paxton has really accomplished, aside from pandering to the GOP base, is wasting taxpayer dollars on a frivolous lawsuit, which would seem contrary to the avowed principles of the tea party. Of course, Paxton has also ensured that he will go down in history as someone who sought to preserve the right of employers to legally fire gay people who want to take unpaid leave to care for ailing loved ones. Truly, this lawsuit is one of the more disgusting displays of anti-gay bigotry from any elected official in recent memory.
View some of the responses Paxton has received on Twitter, AFTER THE JUMP …
— Scott Wooledge (@Clarknt67) March 27, 2015
— RockinRobyn (@RockinRobyn26) March 27, 2015
@KenPaxtonTX Your descendants will look upon you being in their family tree with shame, much like the descendants of segregationists.
— Andy Miller (@jamaustex) March 26, 2015
— Chris Cre (@treehuggercre) March 27, 2015
— Neal Broverman (@nbroverman) March 27, 2015