Texas state officials aren’t happy with the Austin School District. A new district policy granted health insurance benefits to same-sex partners of employees; however, the attorney general says such a policy is not permissible under current law. As a consequence, officials could de-fund the whole program — making a lot of people’s health insurance suddenly too expensive for them to cover.
The district administration has issued a letter to staff expressing hope that recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court will allow the district to offer coverage for domestic partners in the future. For now, the district is awaiting word from its legal counsel as to whether it can begin providing that coverage in for the 2014-15 school year.
In 2005, the Texas voters passed a constitutional amendment that prohibits the state from recognizing same-sex unions. In accordance with the amendment, no governmental entity in the state can provide benefits to same-sex couples.
Although the state does not officially recognize same-sex marriages, the state cannot prohibit contractual agreements between individuals. Since 1993, Travis County has accepted the filing of domestic partnership agreements and maintains a registry of these agreements. The agreements list the legal rights and responsibilities of each of the partners. Each agreement is different, depending on the unique needs of the people entering into the agreement. Individuals may use these agreements for a variety of purposes, including the granting of benefits by private employers.
Same-sex partners can also enter into a series of contractual domestic partnership agreements in order to protect their rights to make decisions for one another in the event of death, illness or break up. Some of these contractual agreements include wills, powers of attorney and guardianship agreements.
Source: YNN, “Threats cause AISD to pull back on same-sex partner benefits,” Jeff Stensland, June 29, 2013