WICHITA FALLS, Texas (CN) - A Texas federal judge halted implementation of a Department of Labor rule forcing anti-gay marriage states to recognize same-sex couples married in other states.
U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor granted Texas' motion for a preliminary injunction on Thursday.
The state sued the Labor Department on March 19, claiming its extension of Family and Medical Leave Act benefits to same-sex couples would violate the Texas Constitution because it redefines the definition of a " spouse ."
Arkansas, Louisiana and Nebraska have joined the lawsuit.
Texas voters banned gay marriage when they approved a constitutional amendment in November 2005, defining marriage as being between a man and woman.
Scheduled to begin Friday, the Department of Labor's rule requires employers to allow the same FMLA leave rights given to heterosexual couples. Under the FMLA, eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave each year for family or medical reasons, including family emergencies or childbirth.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton claimed the rule violates the Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor, which "struck down federal interference with state law governing domestic relations."
Judge O'Connor concluded the states have "met their burden" to show the public interest supports the injunction.
"The court recognizes the burden that individuals requesting spousal leave encounter, and this order does not prohibit employers from granting leave to those who request leave to care for a loved one," the 24-page opinion states. "However, a preliminary injunction must issue to prevent the Department from mandating enforcement of its Final Rule against the states. The public maintains an abiding interest in preserving the rule of law and enforcing the states' duly enacted laws from federal encroachment."
O'Connor found the states demonstrated a "substantial likelihood of success" on their claims that the rule violates the full faith and credit statute.
"The [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," the opinion states.
"Thus, 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. For the foregoing reasons, plaintiffs have shown the Final Rule is likely to be found to be contrary to the statute."
Paxton applauded the ruling, saying the Obama administration is forcing Texas agencies to either violate state law or federal regulation.
"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," Paxton said in a statement Thursday.
Department of Justice spokeswoman Nicole Navas said Friday that the agency is reviewing the opinion.Follow @davejourno
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