Dallas Extends Marriage Benefits to LGBTQ Employees

A spouse is a spouse, regardless of genitalia, as far as Dallas' city code is concerned now. The City Council voted Wednesday morning to change its definition of spouse, clearing the way for same-sex spouses of civilian city employees to receive survivor pension benefits.

Gay city workers legally married in states that allow same-sex marriages now fall under the same set of pension rules as straight married couples. The council's decision comes after City Attorney Warren Ernst issued an opinion -- appropriately, on Valentine's Day -- that said the city's retirement system needed to include same-sex spouses to guarantee compliance with federal pension laws.

Sheffie Kadane, who's repeatedly voiced his religion-based objections to providing survivor benefits to LGBTQ city employees, spoke out again Wednesday.

Kadane questioned Ernst as to why the city shouldn't just extend benefits to any city employee who lives with another person -- inadvertently advocating for a genuinely progressive position, a plus-one system -- because same-sex marriage isn't legal in the state of Texas.

"How do you say it's legal here when our laws don't condone it?" he asked Ernst. "If that's the case then I'm saying that you should say all couples should have that right...I don't agree with it and I don't think it's right."

City staff assured the council that the change likely wouldn't cost the city much money, but Kadane wasn't buying it. Someone could sue, he suggested.

"I believe down the line, this will cost the city money," he said.

Vonciel Jones Hill and Rick Callahan joined Kadane in voting against the change. The rest of the council at Wednesday's meeting strongly backed extending the benefits. Tennell Atkins and Dwaine Caraway, who's father died recently, were absent.

"Even if there were a cost consideration," Philip Kingston said, "I think equality is worth spending money on."


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