Fort Worth Extends Benefits to Same-Sex Spouses, Dallas Should Be Next

With a simple announcement in The Roundup, the city of Fort Worth's employee newsletter, Cowtown did something that is, for North Texas, pretty revolutionary. The city extended the same spousal benefits to everyone, regardless of the sex of their spouse.

"Since the city's retirement ordinance does not specifically define 'spouse,' surviving spouses in a same-sex marriage will be eligible for survivor benefits if the survivor can prove, through documentation, that they were legally married to the employee/retiree in a state where same-sex marriage is legally recognized," the announcement said.

And with that, despite a section of the Texas Family Code that seems intended to stop just this sort of thing, our neighbors to the west have used the latitude afforded them by United States v. Windsor -- the Supreme Court case that struck down portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act -- to actually get something done.

"The City of Fort Worth has been working hard to be an inclusive environment for our employees and our citizens. Many other states have legalized same-sex marriage that is recognized by the federal government for tax purposes. The city of Fort Worth has an IRS-qualified pension plan; therefore, it makes sense for us to allow all legally married employees to be treated the same under that federally qualified plan," Fort Worth Assistant City Manager Susan Alanis said.

Dallas city officials are hoping to get something similar done by this time next year, at least.

"I hate it when Fort Worth is better than us," Dallas City Council member Philip Kingston said.

There isn't significant opposition to providing the benefits for Dallas' cops, firefighters or other employees, Kingston said, so getting the city's two retirement plans caught up with Fort Worth's needs to be priority.

"All it is a timing thing and [Fort Worth] won, but it's coming," he said.

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