Pflugerville to provide benefits for same-sex partnerships

Joan Vinson

The Pflugerville Independent School District will offer insurance benefits to same-sex and heterosexual domestic partners, benefits which UT-Austin employees are not eligible for.

A staff insurance committee in the school district made the recommendation to offer domestic partner benefits, school district spokesperson Amanda Brim said. Employees can begin enrolling in the program the week of Oct. 15, and the program goes into effect Jan. 1, 2013. Possible requirements to qualify as a domestic partnership include providing proof of a joint lease, a joint mortgage or the joint ownership of a vehicle.

Charles Dupre, superintendent of Pflugerville Independent School District, said providing an avenue for increased insurance coverage is in the best interest of employees and the district.

“In Pflugerville we recognize that families come in all shapes and sizes,” Dupre said. “We value all our staff members, and we want them to be able to care for their families.”

UT spokesperson Cynthia Posey said according to Chapter 1601 of the Texas Insurance Code, an employee is eligible for employee group insurance benefits only if the person related to the employee is a dependent. She said a “dependent,” as defined by the code, only includes a child or a “spouse” of an employee eligible for benefits, with a spouse being narrowly defined as a marriage between a man and a woman.

“Same and opposite-sex domestic partners are ineligible for benefits because, by definition, a ‘domestic partnership’ is something other than a marriage and thus does not meet the statutory definition of ‘spouse,’” Posey said.

Unless state law is changed, the University is prohibited from offering dependent benefits based upon either same-sex or opposite-sex domestic partnerships.

Government senior Robert Nunez said he believes the school district’s decision to extend benefits to domestic partners is a welcoming one. Nunez, who is also a member of Delta Lambda Phi, a fraternity for gay, bisexual and progressive men, said this step illustrates that decisions by political leaders should be based on the interests of all people and not solely on the basis of public opinion or ideology.

“I hope this will encourage other institutions of education, businesses and governments to extend rights and benefits to all regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression,” Nunez said. “We must always remember to include all people when making vital decisions in society.”

Printed on Wednesday, October 10, 2012 as: Pflugerville to allow same-sex benefits