Houston Mayor Annise Parker announced Wednesday that the city of Houston will begin offering benefits to all legally married spouses of city employees. Those in civil unions and domestic partnerships will not qualify.
Janice Evans, the mayor’s spokeswoman, said Parker’s partner Kathy Hubbard doesn’t qualify. The couple has been together for 23 years and have raised three children, but they haven’t legally married in a marriage-equality state.
An announcement may come soon, though.
“They’re always talking about it,” Evans said.
The decision to offer benefits is based on a city legal department interpretation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June that declared parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.
Houston didn’t offer benefits previously because of a city charter amendment that prohibits offering partner benefits.
However, the amendment specifically allows benefits for “legal spouses.”
Evans said since the Supreme Court decision, the city has been watching how it’s been implemented elsewhere.
“We started seeing things change across the country,” she said.
She said the city is simply following actions already taken by a number of federal agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service, which announced in August that all legally married same-sex couples will be recognized as married for federal tax purposes, even if those couples reside in states that do not recognize same-sex marriage.
“Based on the right to equal protection under the law, it is unconstitutional for the city to continue to deny benefits to the same-sex spouses of our employees who are legally married,” Parker said in a statement. “This change is not only the legal thing to do, it is the right, just and fair thing to do.”