AISD reverses decision to offer domestic partner benefits

AISD reverses decision to offer domestic partner benefits

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AISD announced it will not offer domestic partner benefits to employees five days before open enrollment.

On Thursday, AISD announced to staff home on summer break that it would not offer domestic partnership benefits as promised since March. Open enrollment is set for July first.

LGBT rights advocates say the last minute decision is a crushing blow to those several hundred AISD employees who qualified.

"People are on vacation, people are planning. This has been announced for months and now you have LGBT families who had not sought out other health insurance plans, now what are they going to do?" asked Jimmy Flannigan of Austin Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

Domestic partnership doesn't just affect those in the LGBT community, but heterosexual couples who live together.

In a letter sent to staff, district official sites the Attorney General's opinion issued back on April 29 that "a school district would violate the Texas constitution if the health plan is determined to create or recognize a legal status that is similar to marriage."

It also cited recent Supreme Court rulings issued, likely meaning the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8.

AISD staff was not available for comment Friday as headquarters were closed for energy conservation. The pull back on benefits will save the district $600,000.

"There is something unique about marriage and the union of a man and a woman for the benefit of children," David Walls of the Liberty Institute said.

He says the district did the right thing.

"School districts, leaders of school districts, they should show an example to their students that following the law is important. What kind of message does that send when students look at their leaders and say if you don't like or if you don't agree with something in the state constitution you can just choose not to follow it," Walls said.

AISD did tell staff it is possible that something may change over the next few months allowing the district to reinstate the plan.

"People can't wait for healthcare for another couple of months," said Flannigan.

Neither side is backing down.

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