Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins came out in support of marriage equality Tuesday and proposed that the county establish a domestic partner registry similar to one administered by Travis County.
Watkins, a two-term incumbent who is facing a possible challenge in next year’s Democratic Primary from former Judge John Creuzot, addressed Stonewall Democrats of Dallas during the group’s monthly meeting at Ojeda’s Restaurant on Maple Avenue. Watkins delivered what appeared to be his standard stump speech to the group’s membership, and he didn’t mention LGBT issues. But he spoke to Dallas Voice in an exclusive interview after the meeting.
“This is America, and we shouldn’t discriminate against anyone for whatever reason, and so I think it’s a disservice for us as Americans to say that just because you are a certain lifestyle, that you can’t have the same rights as someone else,” Watkins told the Voice. “I think it goes towards, you know, when we were going through the civil rights movement, issues that we dealt with back then, which, basically, I can understand very clearly because of who I am. … “
“It goes back to quality of life issues, and as a DA, I’m responsible for improving the quality of the lives of all of the citizens I represent,” Watkins said. “I’m the lawyer for everybody in Dallas County, and so I can’t be against something that will make your life better. So I’m for whatever we need to do in Dallas County to make the quality of life better, and in my opinion to have that —marriage equality and the registry — it makes lives better for citizens of Dallas County.”
Travis County has had a domestic partner registry since 1993. According to the county clerk’s web site, the office accepts the filing of Domestic Partnership Agreements and maintains a Registry of Domestic Partnerships.
“A Domestic Partnership Agreement is a document that describes the legal rights and responsibilities between two individuals of any gender in a long-term relationship,” the site states. “These documents are used for a variety of purposes, for example, some employers use them to grant insurance and other benefits.”
The site goes on to note that the state of Texas doesn’t recognize domestic partnerships.
Watkins said he plans to discuss his idea for a domestic partner registry with Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons. Watkins suggested that Fitzsimmons could set up the registry himself.
However, Fitzsimmons said later that establishing a domestic partner registry isn’t within his statutory authority. Fitzsimmons, who is clerk of the state district courts, said such a registry would have to be maintained by County Clerk John Warren’s office. Fitzsimmons, who’s gay, said he feels a DP registry would be beneficial. But he said it likely would also need approval from the Commissioners Court.