The fight over domestic partnership benefits is just beginning

Stuff like this was inevitable.

On the right side of history

Leaders of two Christian groups want City Council to stop extending benefits to domestic partners of city employees, now that the state attorney general has called the benefits unconstitutional.

City officials reject the demand, at least for now.

Pastor Gerald Ripley of Voices for Marriage and Philip Sevilla of Texas Leadership Coalition made the request Wednesday with backing from a few sign-carrying supporters at City Hall.

Attorney General Greg Abbott issued an opinion April 29 stating cities that offer marriage benefits to employees’ same-sex partners are violating the Texas Constitution. San Antonio has done so since 2011, at an annual cost then estimated at $300,000.

Ripley and Sevilla also voiced opposition to Councilman Diego Bernal’s proposal to update the city’s anti-discrimination policies by adding protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. Further, Ripley and Sevilla oppose funding a city liaison to the gay community. The city’s Governance Committee takes up Bernal’s proposals on Tuesday.

Ripley demanded the domestic partner benefits policy be reversed by June 30. “Lawsuits will be filed if necessary,” he said.

“We cannot allow this in San Antonio. We are not San Francisco,” Sevilla said.

City attorney Mike Bernard said the city won’t change its policy while the nation’s highest court weighs two cases that could impact Abbott’s opinion. Rulings could come in a few weeks, he said.
“We’re not going to do anything until the U.S. Supreme Court rules,” he said Wednesday.

Abbott issued his opinion back in April. He stated in his opinion that Texas’ double secret illegal anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment didn’t necessarily bar cities and ISDs and what have you from offering benefits to the unmarried partners of employees, they just couldn’t do it in a way that made it look like they were equating those not-married relationships with marriage. Perhaps because of that wiggle room, or just perhaps because they thought Abbott was being more political than analytical, the cities that have offered domestic partnership benefits have basically ignored Abbott’s opinion so far. On top of that, the voters in Pflugerville re-elected the two trustees of their school board that supported its domestic partnership policy that led to Abbott’s opinion, defeating two candidates that had targeted them over this. One way or another this will ultimately be decided in a court, whether or not SCOTUS upholds or throws out DOMA. The next step will be when one of the anti-equality groups finds a plaintiff to file a suit against their city or ISD. Stay tuned.

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