Another State Takes Issue with Local Same-Sex Partner Benefits

Local governments that offer benefits to unmarried same-sex partners of their employees are violating a ban on same-sex marriages in the Texas Constitution, the State Attorney General announced this week in an advisory opinion. The opinion does not have legal force, but it does function as something of an invitation to lawsuits to test the issue in court. At least three cities, two school districts, and one county currently offer benefits to same-sex partners of employees. A Texas gay rights group has described the opinion as little more than clarification that local governments that want to offer benefits to members of households other than those composed of opposite-sex spouses and their children will be on the most sound legal footing if they craft their eligibility criteria to not resemble marriage, and avoid the term “domestic partner.”

State lawmakers had already been pursuing a separate, more direct route to limit domestic partner (er, “unmarried household”) benefits with bills to reduce health care funds to jurisdictions offering such benefits, a move that would likely hit school districts the hardest because so much of their funding comes through the state. (Note that the article linked to above suggests that the AG opinion “struck down” local domestic benefit packages, which is an overstatement because AG opinions are advisory.)

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About Rachel Proctor May

Rachel Proctor May is a 2L at HLS. Before law school, she was policy director for the mayor pro tem of Austin, Texas, and covered the environment and education for the Austin Chronicle.
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