AISD announced in March that the district would offer domestic partner benefits to its employees next school year. But legislation was later introduced in Austin to cut state funding for school districts that offered DP benefits. The legislation never made it to the House floor for a vote.
AISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen announced Wednesday that the district’s “plus one” plan will provide benefits to a “qualifying individual,” according to a release from Equality Texas. The eligibility criteria for a “qualifying individual” allow for the inclusion of same-sex partners of district employees.
Equality Texas has been working with the Austin district on this issue since May, following Attorney General Greg Abbott’s opinion that DP benefits violate the state’s constitutional marriage amendment. Even though the opinion is non-binding, El Paso County changed its benefits plan earlier this year to remove domestic partner language.
“Equality Texas is proud to have been a resource to the Austin ISD as they considered implementation of a ‘Plus One’ benefit plan,” Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith said in a statement. “These plans are a simple way for employers to offer competitive benefits while also treating their employees fairly and remaining in compliance with the laws and constitution of the state.”
“In working with AISD on this important issue, we showed that Texas law allows for benefits as long as the district is not creating or recognizing a legal status identical or similar to marriage,” Equality Texas board member and Austin attorney Brian Thompson said. “This is clearly consistent with the Texas Constitution, as well as Attorney General Abbott’s non-binding opinion on this issue.”
The criteria deal with shared financial dependence or interdependence. As proposed, open enrollment for the plan would begin on Oct. 1, with benefits commencing on Dec. 1, 2013.
Meanwhile in Dallas, where DART has continued to delay discussion on its proposed benefits plan for same-sex partners, DART’s administrative committee will resume discussion on the topic on Aug. 27.