Fritsch Parker

Jim Fritsch and Bill Parker

The Dallas Employee Retirement Fund recognized a common law marriage today that was filed in Tarrant County.

Jim Fritsch and Bill Parker filed a common law marriage that recognized their 23 years together. Fritsch is a retired city of Dallas employee. For Parker to continue to receive pension benefits if anything happened to Fritsch, they had to prove they were married at the time of the retirement.

The pension board recognizes Texas’ informal common law marriages equally with those marriages registered with a marriage license.

This is the first common law marriage fully recognized in the state of Texas. When the couple filed the affidavit in Tarrant County dated Sept. 28, a judge in Austin had ruled on another¬† that was filed for the purposes of inheritance. That ruling wasn’t made final until Oct. 5.

Tarrant County Clerk Mary Louise Garcia at first rejected Fritsch and Parker’s petition for recognition of their marriage under guidance from the interim director of state health services Kirk Cole. Cole, along with Attorney General Ken Paxton, were already under orders to carry out the Obergefell marriage equality ruling or face contempt of court charges. After a story ran in Dallas Voice, she reversed her position.

At the time the Dallas ERF equalized benefits for same-sex and opposite-sex couples, it was estimated the change would affect only a few couples that were already retired and were married at the time of retirement. The difference to the fund was estimated to be negligible.