A Texas Supreme Court justice has suggested that same-sex couples should be denied equal access to benefits, to “promote” opposite-sex parents.

The claim was made in response to a lawsuit backed by right-wing evangelical groups, bidding to stop Texas cities from granting employee benefits to married same-sex couples.

In the case, the state Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling affirming equal benefit rights – but one justice dissented to argue that gay couples should be denied benefits.

Justice John Devine claimed: “[US Supreme Court ruling] Obergefell concerned access to marriage, not an Equal Protection challenge to the allocation of employment benefits.

“The court of appeals apparently assumed that, if the Supreme Court concluded no government interest justifies recognising marriage as only between couples of the opposite sex, then no interest justifies offering different benefits to same-sex and opposite-sex spouses of City employees.

“But, as discussed below, marriage—not spousal employment benefits—is a fundamental right.”

He added: “Benefits such as health insurance provide financial security as couples decide whether to have a child.

“An opposite-sex marriage is the only marital relationship where children are raised by their biological parents. In any other relationship, the child must be removed from at least one natural parent, perhaps two, before being adopted by her new parent(s).

“This does not diminish any child’s inherent dignity, a fact the City presumably recognises by extending benefits to their employees’ children regardless of the employees’ marital status. But it does explain why the State might choose to direct resources to opposite-sex couples.”

It concludes: “Texas, as it allocates benefits to employees’ spouses, may recognise the differences between same- and opposite-sex spouses.

“To withhold this decision from the people is to undermine precedent, democracy, and the limited role of courts in our nation… I respectfully dissent to the denial of the petition for review”