Three speakers addressed the DART board at its bimonthly meeting this week to encourage the agency to extend partner benefits to its employees — Brite Divinity School professor the Rev. Stephen Sprinkle, Hope for Peace and Justice Executive Director Lynn Walters and former Dallas City Councilman Chris Luna.
The DART board previously delayed a vote on partner benefits until after the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the Defense of Marriage Act in June.
Sprinkle told the board there were three reasons to support partner benefits.
“It’s the smart thing to do. It’s the good thing to do. It’s the just thing to do,” he said.
He made the argument that when employees are well provided for, their anxiety level is lower and they become more productive on the job.
Walters introduced herself to the board as a stereotypical married heterosexual woman with children. She said through her marriage she and her husband have relied on each other.
“One or the other had a job with healthcare,” she said.
She explained that when she took off from work to have kids, she went on her husband’s plan and when he was laid off from a job, he went on hers. She said it was no different with same-sex couples. Most work and won’t need the coverage. Some will need it. And others will need it at one time or another.
She accused the board of hiding behind the Supreme Court.
“You can be a footnote on the wrong side of history,” she said. “Or you can do the right thing.”
Luna told the board that his company just merged with another company. Both offered partner benefits but in the merger the companies discussed reasons for offering them.
“It was used to attract and retain the best employees,” he said. “It’s a recruitment and retention tool.”
He told the board that while he served on the council, they made decisions about policies and benefits so he understood the pressure from constituent groups.
He called making the decision to offer partner benefits a hard one but the right one.