HOUSTON (CN) - A Texas law granting military veterans free tuition to the state's public universities only if they were Texas residents when they enlisted is unconstitutional, a veteran claims in Federal Court.
Keith Harris, an honorably discharged veteran, sued Texas, its governor and attorney general, the Texas Veterans Commission, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board et al.
Harris, a student at the University of Houston law school, challenges the constitutionality of Texas' Hazelwood Act.
Harris claims he has been a Texas resident for 10 years. He enlisted in the military in 1996, served four years, and moved to Texas in 2004. He's in his second year of law school and has exhausted his GI Bill benefits.
Harris claims that the Texas attorney general already has "opined that the court 'probably would find that the [Hazelwood] statute unconstitutionally discriminates against honorably discharged, resident veterans who did not reside in Texas when they entered the service.' The Texas attorney general further opined that 'a court would remedy the unconstitutionality by extending the exemption to all honorably discharged, resident veterans.'" (Brackets in complaint; citations to exhibit omitted.)
The lawsuit adds: "The requirement that one must have been a Texas resident at the time of entering the military - which is something the individual can never change or later satisfy - is referred to as a fixed-point residency requirement that discriminates between different types of current Texas residents in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the fundamental right to travel protected by the United States Constitution. See Attorney General of New York v. Soto-Lopez,
476 U.S. 898, 911 (1986) ('Once veterans establish bona fide residence in a state, the "become the state's 'own' and may not be discriminated against solely on the basis of [the date of] their arrival in the state') (holding civil service preferences given only to veteran residents who lived in New York at time of entering service was unconstitutional)." (Parentheses in complaint.)
Harris seeks declaratory judgment and an injunction.
His lead counsel is John Sheppard.