AG Greg Abbott: City & ISD Domestic Partner Benefits Unconstitutional (Update)
Update: More signs from the City of Austin that Attorney General Greg Abbott's opinion won't mean any changes for now: a memo from City Manager Marc Ott on the matter. It reads, in part:
While we will continue to evaluate the Attorney General’s opinion, it continues to be our belief that the City’s domestic partner group benefits program is not prohibited by the Texas Marriage Amendment, and that the Texas Legislature did not intend the Amendment to have that effect when it was placed before the voters in 2005.
The Attorney General’s opinion does not require the City to take any specific action, and we do not intend to change domestic partner eligibility for our benefits program at this time.
You can read the full memo online.
Update (April 29, 5:22 p.m.): More reactions to the Attorney General’s opinion, which can be read here: A communications officer with Pflugerville ISD tells KUT News “we are just now receiving this information and are reviewing the Attorney General's opinion. At this point we don't have a response.”
Similarly, Austin ISD spokesperson Alex Sanchez tells KUT News that the implications of the AG’s opinion could impact the district's plan to roll same-sex benefits out next year.
“We have been moving towards that direction,” Sanchez says. “Obviously, there’s new information and we will pause to understand it, to certainly know the implications and to get further legal guidance from our team as to how to proceed and what those next steps will be.”
Sanchez says that AISD won't make a decision until August, when the board of trustees finalizes the district's budget.
You can read more about reaction to the AG's opinion from the Texas Tribune.
Update (4:36 p.m.): Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell tells KUT News he doesn’t expect the city will abandon its practice of offering domestic partner benefits.
“I was on the council when the council adopted an ordinance to start domestic partner insurance,” Leffingwell says. “I was for it then, I’m for it now.”
“As far as I’m concerned … I would anticipate that the city will keep on doing what they’re doing and continue to study the matter,” Leffingwell adds. “But we are not legally bound by the attorney generals’ opinion. It’s just … a pretty serious warning that that might happen. I have been a supporter of domestic partner insurance, and I continue to be, and I hope the city will be able to find a way top continue offering those benefits.”
Original post (4:17 p.m.): Cities, counties and school districts in Texas cannot offer domestic partnership benefits to same-sex couples, according to an opinion issued today by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.
The opinion, issued today, was requested by State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston.
Since 2006, the City of Austin has provided domestic partner benefits. Last year, Pflugerville ISD became the first district in the state to offer same-sex partner benefits. And AISD has signaled its intention to do so.
Texas Attorney General opinions are advisory, but they carry the weight and force of law unless state lawmakers or a judicial decision says otherwise.
You can read the opinion online.