Employee Insurance Benefits

Several political subdivisions around the state, including Pflugerville ISD, extend insurance benefits to an employee’s domestic partner as defined by the eligibility requirements of an insurance carrier. Senator Dan Patrick asked the attorney general to determine whether this practice violates Article I, section 32 of the Texas Constitution (commonly referred to as the Texas Marriage Amendment or TMA), which states that a political subdivision of the state may not “create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.” The TMA defines “marriage” as only the union of one man and one woman. The legal question at issue was whether political subdivisions who offer employees the option to purchase health insurance for a qualifying partner were creating or recognizing a “legal status” prohibited by the TMA.

TASB LAF filed a letter brief with the attorney general arguing that Pflugerville ISD’s decision to permit unmarried employees to purchase dependent health insurance coverage for qualified domestic partners did not create any legal status and that the decision as to what insurance coverage to offer to employees is best left to local school boards that can select health care plan options that best serve the unique needs of their districts and communities.

The attorney general concluded that the political subdivisions at issue created a domestic partnership status that is similar to marriage, and that the TMA prohibits a political subdivision from creating a legal status of domestic partnership and recognizing that status by offering public benefits based upon it. Op. Tex. Att’y Gen. No. GA-1003 (Apr. 29, 2013). LAF’s Attorney: Paul A. Lamp, Rogers, Morris & Grover, LLP, Houston.