El Paso County waits on Supreme Court before deciding on same sex employment benefits
POSTED: Monday, June 10, 2013 - 5:35pm
UPDATED: Monday, June 10, 2013 - 8:54pm
El Paso, TX (KTSM) — As the nation looks to the Supreme Court in their decision on same sex marriage, all of Texas is looking to El Paso County to see what they will decide with their domestic partner benefits program.
The County's controversial benefits program offers not only married couples health and dental benefits they also offer the same package to unmarried, same sex couples.
What started off as a legal challenge against the County's domestic partner benefits program, became more of a legal aid.
"I have no problem with the gay lifestyle. It's just that, I believe in state's rights," Carl Star, a self-proclaimed activist said.
"We were the very first county to begin looking at it because of the Carl Star lawsuit," El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar told us.
Carl Starr filed suit against the county in April, shortly after Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot ruled that offering benefits to same sex couples is in violation of the state constitution, because it defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
The county is still offering benefits to those couples, but may rename the program to 'Plus One Benefits' to avoid some of the legal issues. "That is very, very similar to the domestic partner benefit without identifying the relationship as a close, personal relationship. So that's more of a financial relationship," Judge Escobar explained.
However, they won't make anything final until the Supreme Court makes their own decision on same sex marriage. One of the cases they're ruling on is California's Proposition 8, which bans same sex marriage.
"Let's just not create another... more administrative work for us than is necessary for our department, if all we have to do is wait a week or two," the Judge said.
While the clock ticks, both parties are waiting. "We're all anxiously waiting for the Supreme Court," Starr said.
"It may be a really narrow decision that doesn't impact us at all. It may be a broad sweeping decision... we'll take action once we get that," the Judge explained.
The County Judge told us that other Texas counties and cities will be looking to El Paso County to see what they will do with the Domestic Partner Health and Dental benefits package.