Attorney General Greg Abbott Rules that Domestic Partner Benefits are Barred by Texas Constitution

Categories: Politics

Thumbnail image for GregAbbottFacebook.jpg
Voters didn't mince words in 2005, when they added Article I, Section 32 to the Texas Constitution. "Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman," it says. "This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage."

Gay people can't get married; they can't enter into a civil union. Not in Texas at least.

This hasn't stopped a growing number of cities, counties, and school districts -- including DISD, Dallas County and the city of Dallas -- from extending benefits to the same-sex partners of employees, just like many companies do. It was fast becoming a trend, and one that seemed likely to continue for the foreseeable future as even Texans soften their stance on same-sex relationships.

But then state Senator Dan Patrick, a Houston Republican, wanted Attorney General Greg Abbott to weigh in, not as a Tea Partying Republican politician or an ordinary Texan but in his official capacity. Patrick submitted a formal request for an opinion in November. Today, Abbott issued his formal answer.

In a six-page opinion, Abbott explains why all those local governments that have handed out domestic partner benefits just like they're married heterosexual partner benefits are in violation of the state constitution.

He bases his argument on the portion of the document quoted above. The first question that has to be settled, Abbott writes, is whether the political subdivisions in question are indeed creating or recognizing a "legal status." On this, his answer is an unambiguous yes.

"While Texas law uses the term 'domestic partnership' to describe a type of business entity, no Texas statute establishes or recognizes a domestic partnership as it is described in your request or in the briefing submitted to this office," he writes. "Thus, the domestic partnerships about which you inquire are entirely a creation of the relevant political subdivisions."

Supporters of domestic partner benefits argued that simply extending health insurance to someone is not the same as creating a legal status. Abbott disagrees, contending that by establishing eligibility requirements for domestic partners and requiring legal documentation showing that an individual satisfies those requirements, these local governments are creating a new legal status.

This established, Abbott next goes on to show that this "domestic partner" status created by these local governments is "similar to marriage." All the political subdivisions that have put domestic partner benefits require that applicants for domestic partnership benefits show that they aren't currently married, aren't related to their partner by blood, and are at least 18 -- exactly what one has to do when applying for a marriage license. Therefore, domestic partnership = marriage = unconstitutional.

His opinion, he writes, is borne out by a decision out of the Houston Court of Appeals that called the constitution's language "unambiguous, clear, and controlling."

Abbott's decision does not carry the force of a court decision. It doesn't keep local governments from extending domestic partner benefits, nor does it require those that already offer the benefits to stop. It's merely Abbott's opinion of how Texas courts will rule on the issue. It's essentially a recommendation, albeit one that carries quite a bit of weight. It will certainly make some entities (we're looking at you, DART) hesitate to take the plunge.

But Abbott's opinion could end up being merely an academic exercise. He ends his opinion by briefly noting that two relevant cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, one challenging the federal ban recognizing gay marriage, the other California's ban on such marriages, will likely be decided soon. "Depending on the outcome of these cases, however, the Court's decision could call into question the enforceability of Article I, Section 32 under the United States Constitution."

My Voice Nation Help
48 comments
fjsdjf
fjsdjf

Well since Texas only allows constitutional amendments by legislative referral, the only way same sex marriage will be legal here is if the Supreme Court rules gays are a protected class. Once they do that, lawsuits will be filed in Texas and every other state that does not have gay marriage and will result in the legalization of same sex marriage nationwide. 

priestjudasdude
priestjudasdude

You can bet your sweet ass that if a post has anything to do with gay people, every fucking homophobic christianista will come out to put in their two bigoted cents.  Failing to see they are decades behind the rest of the world in their beliefs because they are too busy watching Robert Jeffress jack off every Sunday and spewing his bigot wad all over the city.

Dallas jeebus freaks will never ever support anything that is gay because they are so frustrated they can no longer bash Blacks or Hispanics in public.  But hey, it is open season on gays and they are going to make damn sure it stays that way.

But you can also bet your sweet ass that the most outspoken homophobice jackass that love to spew here are the same ones thinking about some hot dude as they spank their monkey.  Otherwise, not one iota of ANYTHING gay would bother a heterosexual man.  So go get or give a BJ at the book store (look for the good Rev in room 4) and then get back to your bashing.

And remember to...Have A Nice Day.  May God Bless You and may he bless the United States of America.

MattL11
MattL11

As much as I hate to say it, that SOB is probably right as far as the Texas constitution goes. Seems pretty clear, actually. Stupid, but clear.

John1073
John1073

 Abbott is running for Governor so he has to prop up his failed tenure as Attorney General before the 2014 primary.

Also more importantly, is HB 1568 that may come to the TX House floor for a vote soon. The bill will penalize any local school district who wishes to provide its employees with equal partner benefits. They will do this by witholding 7.5% of state funding for the ISD and revoking the accreditation of the district, which in turn penalizes your children. Such a great justice being done there by the Republicans, right?

http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=83R&Bill=HB1568

Craig Boland
Craig Boland

History isn't going to be nice to these bigoted politicians. Look back at the segregationist speech of the 1950's-'60s and substitute the words describing Blacks then with words describing gays/lesbians today. Just as their despicable views died off with them (for the most part), the same will happen for these despicable views.

ChrisDangerShow
ChrisDangerShow

Again, why cant the Republicon$ get out of the bedroom and go focus on making sure we have water resources for the next 50-100 years...

Gangy
Gangy

Abbott is a $#!+head, that's all there is to it.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

Domestic partners aren't just gay people living together, its straight people too, and those in relationships that aren't married use the domestic partnership to insure each other.  But hey, if a domestic partnership doesn't exist I guess there is no common law marriage then either

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

apparently in Texas it is constitutional to deny equal rights to all its citizens.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

YUCK!  This Abbott troglodyte needs to be jettisoned; preferably back to the Stone Age.

Jonathan McCalip
Jonathan McCalip

unfortunately I think he is correct about how the law is written. I hope for a successful challenge.

Jon Jackson
Jon Jackson

He's a pile of steaming excrement. What a sad excuse for a human being.

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

GOD intended for REAL MEN to walk around on two legs, but this lame ass pussy rides around in a glorified baby carriage.

Why is he even allowed to hold office? GOD wants disabled people to dance with snakes and pray away the whatever. 

Greggy needs to think about shutting the fuck up until he's at least as much of a real man as me, the kind that can walk around with the legs GOD gave me.

And my legs can wrap around another man and do things that Greggy probably dreams about when he's sitting there at crotch-eye level during all those political meetings.

Fucking asshole fuckwad waste of blood and tissue.

Matthew Helm
Matthew Helm

Not for long...SCOTUS ruling will be coming down soon making this amendment unconstitutional.

Mike Thornton
Mike Thornton

if he can focus people on hating gays, they won't remember our education system sucks like a catfish in lake ray Hubbard

Sheri LeNoir
Sheri LeNoir

So they even ask real people how they want to live anymore or is it all just figures and popularity polls?

EdD.
EdD.

Cue outrage from the usual tea-soaked suspects that Abbott recognizes the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

downtownworker
downtownworker

Can one sue Greg Abbott just for being an asshole?

Theartistformerlyknownas Heifersaywhat Johnson
Theartistformerlyknownas Heifersaywhat Johnson

He's wrong here. His argument will be validly challenged. I agree about what marriage and I don't see why health benefits cannot be extended although that creates a situation where 2 perfectly straight same sex ppl can get together and get health insurance.

Mike Thornton
Mike Thornton

Yet another reason to really dislike this guy a lot.

Bobtex
Bobtex

@ScottsMerkin   Texas Family Code, Sec. 2.401. PROOF OF INFORMAL MARRIAGE. (a) In a judicial, administrative, or other proceeding, the marriage of a man and woman may be proved by evidence that:  (1) a declaration of their marriage has been signed as provided by this subchapter;or (2) the man and woman agreed to be married and after the agreement they lived together in this state as husband and wife and there represented to others that they were married.

So, Abbott's ruling does not invalidate or otherwise affect common law marriages in Texas.

txpatriot
txpatriot

@Montemalone When a state senator asks the AG for an opinion, the AG's job is to respond.  Maybe you disagree with the opinion, but don't fault him for doing his job.

Bobtex
Bobtex

@downtownworker Was he born that way, or did he choose to be an asshole?  It makes a difference, you know.

MattL11
MattL11

@Chuck_Schick @MattL11 I know it doesn't have any real effect, but it's just hard to argue that these political subdivisions are not creating a legal status that is similar to marriage under the systems they currently have in place. I agree with Equality Texas that the programs could probably be restructured to conform. That's probably more productive than hoping the Texas Supreme Court disagrees with Abbott. 

Personally, I hope the US Supreme Court makes the whole damn thing moot, but I'm not holding my breath. 

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@Bobtex but that common law marriage doesn't mean they can insure each other so his ruling means they still cannot, which is a total joke, then again so is he

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

@txpatriot @Montemalone When the state senator is a hate mongering fuck, and the question concerns a constitutional amendment that will eventually be found unConstitutional because discrimination of any sort cannot be codified into law, then I can say whatever the fuck I want.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@primi_timpano    

Based on the impunity with which our elected officials seem wield it, I'm pretty sure that assholery is not an actionable offense under Texas law.

Bobtex
Bobtex

@ScottsMerkin @Bobtex I believe that you are mistaken--in Texas, the "common law" or Informal Marriage is equivalent to Ceremonial Marriage, whether as to property rights, or divorce, or inheritance rights, or parental rights and privileges.  There is no provision, however, for "common-law divorce", so if there is a common-law marriage, to dissolve it requires a divorce proceeding in the court, just like ceremonial marraige.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...