Texas employees eligible for same sex spouse benefits

HOUSTON -- Right now, the state Employee Retirement System defines an eligible spouse as opposite-sex only. On Wednesday, that changes.

In light of the Supreme Court's landmark decision last week to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states, State of Texas employees can add their same-sex spouses to their benefit plan. It includes those who work for all state agencies, the University of Texas system, and the Texas A&M system.

"Our hope is it's not going to be a major legal battle. We'd like to see Texas do the right thing," said John Nechman an attorney whose practice often represents clients in the LGBT community.

He says this another step in a changing political and legal environment. There are likely many more to come, including benefits from private companies and more.

"There are still questions coming up with regard to adoption issues," he explained, "birth certificates for same-sex parents who adopt a child for example."

The state currently covers some 500,000 people with health, dental, disability, life and for-non-teachers, retirement benefits.

Administrators told Eyewitness News on Tuesday they estimate roughly 450 to 2,000 additional customers as a result of the new law.

Jared Woodfill doesn't like it.

"I'm hopeful that our governor and our attorney general will stop that from happening," he told Eyewitness News.

He's a local attorney who sued the city of Houston over its equal rights ordinance. He says Texans shouldn't have to pay for benefits when their beliefs conflict with offering them to same-sex couples.

"The People of Texas spoke to this issue loudly and clearly in 2005," said Woodfill, "when we amended our constitution by 76 percent to say that marriage in a relationship between one man and one woman."

It's more evidence that what happened last week in the Supreme Court echoed well beyond its steps and with residual outcomes we're just beginning to see unfold.

Those who are already married can sign up for benefits July 1. If not already married, same-sex couples can apply for partner and child benefits to begin on the first day of the month after their marriage is official. null