Domestic partner benefits appear stalled on the tracks at DART

Posted on 07 Jan 2013 at 3:49pm

LGBT advocates are encouraging people to contact DART board members after a scheduled discussion of domestic partner benefits was delayed for at least the third time in five months.

A DP benefits plan was expected to be presented to DART’s administrative committee Tuesday, Jan. 8, but spokesman Morgan Lyons said the committee will hear the plan in February because consultants are still working on the financial impact.

The cost of the benefits has been estimated at $105,000 to $210,000, but committee members want to see projected numbers if the plan is expanded to include relatives who live together, in an effort to prevent legal challenges. No other DP benefits plan in Texas allows blood relatives to qualify.

Claude Williams, DART board member and vice chair of the administrative committee, said he’s disappointed the plan isn’t moving forward faster. Williams said his concern is that consultants will come back with high numbers for coverage if any two people who live together qualify for the benefits, and the board will ultimately decide not to offer the benefits because of cost.

“We’ll have to wait on the numbers,” he said. “My push would be since doing this is to prevent legal challenges, whatever the difference in cost is, that’s just your cost of protecting yourself legally,” he said.

Williams initially requested DP benefits be brought up at the committee’s September meeting. Members requested more cost information before the briefing, and a presentation was made at the October meeting.

At the initial briefing, a staff presentation mentioned other governmental entities that offer DP benefits in Texas, as well as Texas’ law prohibiting recognition of anything similar or identical to marriage.

Members requested more information on rules for the current programs and potential DART plans, which was expected to be presented in November but the meeting ran out of time.

December’s meeting brought a discussion of broadening the benefits to any two people who live together, including relatives who run a household together. A formal definition of domestic partner and possible plans were again requested.

“The fact that there’s been this hesitancy for the last six months when we’re seen every major governmental entity embrace it and accept it, they’ve done all the homework, so all we have to do is embrace the concept,” Williams said.

Rafael McDonnell with Resource Center Dallas said he was under the impression that a definition and possible plans were ready to be presented in January. He said he understands the legal concerns but isn’t sure why there’s another delay.

“It is frustrating that this is taking so long,” McDonnell said. “I don’t know why it’s taking so long.”

He encouraged people in the community to contact DART board members to emphasize the importance of their support for DP benefits and help the process move forward.

View DART board member information here and contact information here.

DART board members are appointed by member cities. Seven of the 15 board members were appointed by the Dallas City Council.

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