Sunday, February 21, 2010

Recently recognized domestic partnerships in Texas and North Carolina

In August, the El Paso City Council approved health care benefits for domestic partners of city employees, even though Texas has a super-DOMA amendment. (Texas Constitution Art. 1, §32) A group calling itself "El Pasoans for Traditional Family Values" has now begun circulating a petition for a referendum on the Council's decision. The El Paso Times interviews Barney Field, who has been leading the referendum campaign. He runs the "citywide ministry El Paso for Jesus." He objects to the City's limited recognition of domestic partnerships on the grounds that it "puts nonmarried couples and same-sex couples and makes them equal to marriage."

That kind of objection has resonance in other super-DOMA states, such as Ohio, where
the Alliance Defense Fund filed a legal challenge to Cleveland's domestic registry, claiming that it violates Ohio's super-DOMA amendment ( Ohio Const. Art. XV, sec. 11). [The Ohio case is now on appeal - Cleveland Taxpayers v. City of Cleveland, No. 94327, (Oh. 8th App. Dist.)] Nevertheless, even in Texas, limited recognition of domestic partnerships appears to be gaining public support, with Austin and Dallas having also adopted similar health care coverage for domestic partners of city employees. Yesterday, "[t]he University of Texas hosted the second annual Texas Equity Conference. At issue is the ability of Texas public universities to be competitive in hiring top staff, given restrictive same-sex partner benefit policies." (News 8 Austin)

North Carolina has a DOMA, but doesn't have a "marriage protection" amendment. There, too, an increasing number of cities and counties have embraced the same rationale for granting health care benefits to domestic partners of their employees. The Ashville City Council last week "voted 4-2 to have city staff report March 9 on how workers' same-sex domestic partners could get the same benefits as heterosexual employees' spouses, including health insurance, bereavement leave and prescription drug coverage. A majority of council members said they expect to vote for a final measure after the report." ( / cross-posted by ADF Alliance Alert and Straight Talk on Marriage) Two lesbian police officers testified at the Council meeting before the vote. One of them said that "[i]t really does make me feel of less value that I can't provide that same protection to my family that other people that I work with can." But
Rev. Keith Ogden objected to the domestic partnership proposal. Like Barney Field of El Paso, he finds that it represents "a way of endorsing gay marriage, something that God forbids."

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