EQTX pushes for Dallas County commissioners to approve DP benefits

Posted on 11 Sep 2012 at 5:02pm

Equality Texas is calling on Dallas County citizens and employees to tell members of the Commissioners Court to approve offering domestic partner benefits to county employees.

The statewide LGBT advocacy group created an action letter that people can sign online and send to commissioners.

Equality Texas Interim Executive Director Chuck Smith said offering DP benefits has become a standard practice.

“It’s what people in the real world, real businesses in the real world, do in order to attract and retain good employees to where it’s not a big step,” he said. “It’s not going out on a limb for municipalities and counties to start doing this.”

Dallas County would become the third county to approve the benefits after Travis and El Paso counties.

County Judge Clay Jenkins and Commissioner Elba Garcia are working on a plan to offer the benefits despite the lack of support from a regional government partner agency. A Commissioners Court vote is expected in the next few months.

Smith said he’s confident that one of the other three members of the Commissioners Court will stand up and vote in favor of the benefits.

“I’m really hopeful that they can secure the support of one more county commissioner in order to put this into place because in a lot of places this is now a standard part of having a competitive benefits program,” Smith said.

Omar Narvaez, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, said Equality Texas has taken the lead on the action alert and Stonewall is spreading the word and encouraging people to contact their commissioners.

“We’re really happy that Judge Jenkins with the help of Commissioner Garcia is looking for a way to make this happen,” he said. “I feel very confident that we’re going to get this.”

Commissioner John Wiley Price is the third Democrat and could provide the third vote in favor of DP benefits, but Narvaez said just because he’s the third Democrat doesn’t mean he’ll support the measure.

Narvaez hadn’t spoken to Price yet about his support, but said when Stonewall Democrats endorsed Price earlier this year, they did so because he was most likely of the candidates to support DP benefits — not because his support was guaranteed.

Here’s the Court’s contact info:

County Judge Clay Jenkins – 214-653-7949

Dist. 1 Maurine Dickey – 214-653-7552

Dist. 2 Mike Cantrell – 214-653-6100

Dist. 3 John Wiley Price – 214-653-6671

Dist. 4 Dr. Elba Garcia – 214-653-6670

And here’s the text of Equality Texas’ call to action:

Dallas County employees deserve domestic partner benefits. Adding domestic partner benefits is a low cost way for Dallas County to further establish the Dallas metropolitan area as a first class international player that celebrates its diversity. Adding domestic partner benefits is not an issue of cost, but of fairness and equality.

Consider the following numbers for Texas governmental bodies which have taken this simple step:

•City of El Paso, first offered benefits 2010—approximately 6,200 employees

Estimated 45 people would take part; actual numbers were 19, with only two in same-sex relationships

Cost: $34,000

•Parkland Health and Hospital System, 2012–about 9,400 employees,  21 took part

Cost:  $21,000

•DFW International Airport (about 2,400 employees) added domestic partner benefits in late 2010

•The City of Dallas has offered these benefits since 2004

•The city of Fort Worth since 2009.

This budget item should be included in the upcoming fiscal budget year.

Dallas County deserves a commissioners court that values diversity and treats its employees with respect.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

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