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City of Houston to offer same-sex spousal benefits

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From the Houston GLBT Political Caucus:

Annise-parkerHOUSTON – The Houston GLBT Political Caucus applauds the decision by Houston Mayor Annise Parker to begin allowing city employees to apply for benefits for their legal same-sex spouses. The decision comes in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision ruling that same-sex marriages performed in states where it is legal constitute legal spouses for benefits purposes. A 2001 amendment to Houston’s Charter restricted benefits to employees, their legal spouses, and legal dependents, which prevented the city from granting domestic partner benefits to unmarried gay and lesbian employees. A legal opinion by City Attorney Dave Feldman determined the current policy banning benefits for same-sex spouses was materially affected by the Supreme Court decision and other changes to federal law.

“This is a great day for gay and lesbian City of Houston employees as they get one step closer to becoming full members of society.” said Caucus President Noel Freeman. “The restriction on equal benefits has maintained gay and lesbian employees as second class citizens for the last 12 years.” The legal opinion applies the same standard equally for opposite-sex and same-sex couples that in order to be eligible, they must get married.

The Supreme Court decision in Windsor laid the groundwork for dozens of lawsuits across the country on issues just like this, and Mayor Parker’s action avoids potential legal action by employees in legal same-sex marriages and could potentially save the city hundreds of thousands of dollars that would have been spent fighting the issue in court.

Shortly after Mayor Parker’s announcement, Freeman – himself a city employee – became the first employee to add his spouse to his benefits.

The Houston GLBT Political Caucus was founded in 1975 and is the oldest GLBT civil rights organization in the South.

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