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Texas Attorney General says same-sex benefits unconstitutional

Several cities throughout Texas, including Austin, El Paso and Fort Worth offer benefits to domestic partners. The first school district in Texas to offer benefits to domestic partnerships was Pflugerville Independent School District, which is in an area outside of Austin. However, as any Texas same-sex attorney knows, the subject of benefits to same-sex couples and domestic partnerships is a hot-button issue these days.

In an official opinion, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott stated that the benefits offered to same-sex partners and domestic partnerships by local governments and school districts are unconstitutional under the Texas state constitution. The opinion states that local governments and school districts are categorized as "political subdivisions" under the state constitution. The constitution prohibits political subdivisions from creating and recognizing a legal status of domestic partnership and conferring public benefits based on that status.

The Texas state constitution was amended in 2005, under the Marriage Amendment, to define marriage as only existing between "one man and one woman." This amendment also prohibits the government from recognizing any legal status that is similar to marriage, as defined in the amendment. The opinion by the Texas Attorney General has garnered much commentary, particularly in light of House Bill 1568, which seeks to revoke accreditation to any school district that violates the constitution.

Domestic partner benefits often offer the same benefits, both economic and non-economic, that are offered to couples in a traditional marriage. The benefits often include health and life insurance and family leave from work, and can also include parental rights and death benefits as well as favorable tax treatment.

Source: star-telegram.com, "AG: Same-sex marriage benefits unconstitutional," April 30, 2013

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