Less than a week after the Dallas City Council voted to change the definition of spouse to include married same-sex couples for the Employee Retirement Fund, the pension that covers the city’s police and fire departments voted to do the same.
The Dallas Police and Fire Pension board had discussed the issue since last fall in reaction to an Internal Revenue Service ruling that all 401 plans, which includes federally chartered pension funds, had to offer equal benefits to legally married same-sex couples.
Some Police and Fire Pension board members resisted based on advice from counsel that this plan wasn’t included in the IRS ruling.
After a meeting on Feb. 12, Resource Center sent a packet of information to the IRS asking for further guidance and IRS responded to Communications and Advocacy Manager Rafael McDonnell that it was investigating.
A special meeting of the board was called for this morning, Tuesday, Feb. 24, to amend the plan.
Councilman Philip Kingston made a motion to change the definition of spouse to add four words — or any other state. The new wording recognizes a spouse as someone “to whom a person is legally married in this state or any other state.”
Several lesbian police officers attended the meeting prepared to speak to the board. Officer Monica Cordova brought her 14-year-old son ready to show the board that she needed the coverage in case anything happened to her so that her wife would be able to care for her son.
None of that was necessary, although the vote was contentious. Before voting on Kingston’s proposal, it went into executive session twice to consult with attorneys. City Attorney Warren Ernst submitted his opinion to the board that will be released later today.
Ernst’s advice was used to change the definition for the ERF and was relied upon by the board to make its decision today.
After the vote, Councilman Lee Kleinman said benefits begin immediately.
While the ERF had to go to the Dallas City Council for a vote, wording in the Police and Fire plan require changes to go to members of the pension for a vote. Kleinman said a provision allows changes to go into effect with a vote of the board when the change is complying with federal law.