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School district becomes first in state to grant domestic partner benefits

A school district north of Austin recently became the first in the state to offer benefits to the domestic partners of its school employees. This is especially historic because it includes domestic partnerships between same-sex couples as well.

Last fall, the Pflugerville school district allowed domestic partners to enroll for health insurance benefits starting in 2013. Despite opposition, the school board voted 5-1 this week to uphold its current plan to extend benefits starting January 1.

Opponents of the Pflugerville decision maintain that state and local entities should not be allowed to grant benefits to domestic partners or any same-sex couples, considering that state voters approved a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman and state law prohibits legal recognition of any other domestic partnership or union similar to marriage.

Houston state Senator Dan Patrick also voiced his opposition to the practice of local entities and governments extending insurance benefits to those in domestic partnerships. Patrick discovered that that Pflugerville school district employees, as well as some city employees in Austin, Fort Worth and El Paso, were able to collect insurance benefits for their same-sex partners, so he brought the issue to state Attorney General Greg Abbott.

Patrick has now asked the attorney general to make an official review, which is expected to take place over the next few months, to determine if this practice violates the state constitution.

Supporters in Pflugerville include many teachers and other school district employees who said they believe all school employees, including same-sex couples, should have the right to receive the same benefits that they do. They call this decision a step forward that they hope leads to more steps toward marriage equality in Texas.

Source: KHOU, "Pflugerville ISD makes history, gives domestic partnerships benefits," Morgan Chesky, Dec. 14, 2012

Secondary Source: KHOU, "Pflugerville ISD upholds domestic-partner benefits," Dec. 15, 2012

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