State Senator wants TX AG opinion on same-sex benefits - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

State Senator wants TX AG opinion on same-sex benefits

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Senator Dan Patrick is asking TX Attorney General Greg Abbott to evaluate the constitutionality of domestic partner insurance benefits.

Last month dozens of Pflugerville ISD parents, staff and taxpayers went before school board members in response to the district's decision to allow domestic partner benefits.

Pflugerville First Baptist Church Pastor Steve Washburn was one of the speakers that night. He's also a member of the Texas Pastors Council. He says the group used PISD's decision as their "Alamo moment" to end domestic partner benefits statewide.

"Anybody who is living together outside of marriage is in violation of the marriage amendment," Washburn said.

With support from the group, Senator Dan Patrick (R) out of Houston filed this letter with the attorney general's office.

Patrick asks Greg Abbott to determine if offering domestic partner benefits goes against the state's definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman.

He not only lists Pflugerville ISD, but also includes the City of Austin, Travis County, and other places currently offering domestic partner insurance benefits.

"I think the issue comes up by people who have some sort of discriminatory view toward gay people and then want to try and link this issue to the issue of the freedom to marry or allow gay people to get married because it's not the same thing," said Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith.

Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith helps municipalities looking to offer the benefits. He is confident all are within their legal rights.

"A parent might add an adult child. It's not limited to people in romantic relationships. It's limited to an employer saying we have a health insurance plan that you have access to and we've now determined that as a benefit you can add a another person to it. You determine who that person is," Smith said.

It typically takes several months for the Attorney General's Office to issue an opinion. The opinion does not have the force of law, but could result in a push to change the law.

Right now all eyes are on Arizona. The governor asked the US Supreme Court to take up her case to revoke domestic partner benefits for state employees. She claims it is a cost savings issue. Chuck Smith says it could have an impact nationwide.

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