El Paso County votes down DP benefits

Unlike in Dallas County, commissioners were given a firm projected cost and actually took a vote. The El Paso Times reports:

County Judge Veronica Escobar brought up the issue of domestic partner benefits during a budget meeting on Tuesday.

After a discussion, Commissioners Dan Haggerty, Willie Gandara Jr. and Sergio Lewis voted against the measure, choosing not to look at providing health insurance benefits to unmarried couples of any gender. Escobar and commissioner Anna Perez supported the idea.

Escobar said it is in the best interest of the taxpayers to have as many people as possible covered with health insurance in the county. “The more people in our community who are uninsured, the more that it cost taxpayers to fund them,” she said.

Escobar said people with health insurance are more prone to receive preventive health care services than are uninsured people, who can’t afford to see a doctor and tend to use the emergency room at the University Medical Center. Taxpayers pay for services provided at the UMC emergency room, she said.

Analysts estimate it would cost the county almost $23,000 more a year to provide health insurance benefits to the partners of unmarried county workers.

—  John Wright

Abbott declines to issue opinion on marriage controversy in El Paso

Attorney General Greg Abbott

El Paso County attorney Jo Anne Bernal’s office sent Dallas Voice a copy of a letter from Attorney General Greg Abbott. His office has formally declined to issue a legal opinion regarding the granting of marriage licenses to individuals who have undergone sex change operations.

She wrote, “On April 19, 2010 El Paso County Attorney’s Office requested a legal opinion as to whether the County Clerk could legally issue a marriage license under a new Texas law when one of the parties is a female and the other was born a man but subsequently underwent sexual reassignment surgery and is now living as a woman.”

Her office asked the attorney general for guidance after two women requested a marriage license earlier this year in El Paso. One of the applicants presented a birth certificate identifying her as a male, a court order approving his name change from a male to female, and an Arizona driver’s license with her new identity as a female.

El Paso denied the application for the marriage license because of the conflicting documents.

Abbot wrote, “It is the policy of this office to refrain from issuing an attorney general opinion on a question that we know to be the subject of pending litigation. … This policy, which has been in effect for more than sixty years, is based on the fact that attorney general opinions, unlike those issued by courts of law, are advisory in nature. By contrast, court decisions are binding …”

Funny, although courts ruled in same-sex divorce cases, Abbott intervened to stop those despite the “binding” decisions of the courts. In this case, however, the marriage license was already denied, giving him the victory he wanted without intervening.

—  David Taffet