Dallas County does not currently offer employee benefits to same-sex partners, and Texas does not allow same-sex marriage. Dallas same-sex family attorneys are watching with interest as two Commissioners in Dallas County finalize a proposal to offer health benefits to same-sex families as early as 2013.
The Commissioners plan to present proposal details to the full Commissioners Court within two to three weeks. Their hope is to add health benefits for same-sex partners to the budget for 2013. Opponents cite the administrative difficulties of verifying domestic partnerships. Supporters counter that equal benefits help establish an inclusive work environment, giving the county competitive strength to attract strong employees and improve county government. Opposition to the proposal has led the Commissioners to suggest offering the benefits independently of the multi-county cooperative agency that now coordinates employee benefits.
Health benefits are just one of the many legal concerns that can arise for same-sex partners. Adoption, property disputes, pre-nuptial agreements, separations, estate planning, child custody, visitation and support issues all call for thoughtful and creative legal planning.
Just as the Dallas Commissioners are considering a benefits package specific to same-sex families, solutions to many family law issues may need to be specifically tailored to gay and lesbian families,. Issues with health benefits can also be related to questions about separation and long-term estate planning for many same-sex families. Without proper planning, many of these issues can lead to significant problems for same-sex couples whose rights may not be clearly defined by the legislature.
Whether or not the health benefits proposal goes forward it is important for same-sex partners to understand all of their family supports and legal rights.
Source: Dallasvoice.com, “Jenkins, Garcia say they’re moving ahead with DP benefits plan,” Anna Waugh, Sept. 7, 2012