Texas is not the most liberal state in the union, nor has it been one of the more welcoming to the LGBTQ community. Currently, most counties in the Lone Star State allow same-sex marriage, but none permit domestic partner registration. However, employees of most big cities can register a domestic partner and thus obtain health benefits.
Don’t look to Texas for liberal LGBTQ laws. Thanks to the 2015 Supreme Court ruling, same-sex marriage is now legal in Texas, but the only entities that recognize domestic partners are a handful of cities in Texas that permit employees to get health benefits by filing a domestic partnership affidavit.
History of Texas LGBTQ Laws
For many years, the LGBTQ community used domestic partnerships as an alternative to marriage in places where same-sex marriage was not permitted. To create a domestic partnership, two people register their relationship at a governmental office, declaring that they are engaged in a committed relationship. Domestic partnerships offer some of the same benefits that marriage offers, such as the right to coverage under family health insurance, family and bereavement leave, and visiting rights in hospitals and jails.
The Texas legislature banned same-sex marriage in Texas in 2003. The state attorney general opined that this ban also applied to registration of domestic partnerships. However, in 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court entered a ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, holding that same sex couples have a Constitutionally protected right to marry. Texas complied, with the exception of several counties, and today, same-sex couples can marry in most jurisdictions of Texas.
Domestic Partnership in Texas
Given the universal right to marry, domestic partnerships are now of limited import. Since Texas did not permit domestic partnership registration before the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, few counties or jurisdictions offer it now.
Several Texas cities provided health insurance to the domestic partners of city workers, including Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, El Paso, Houston and San Antonio. They continue to do so today. Each of the cities defines the term slightly differently, and the registration process is also slightly different among the cities.
For example, in Austin, “domestic partner” is defined as: “The individual who lives in the same household and shares the common resources of life in a close, personal, intimate relationship with a City employee if, under Texas law, the individual would not be prevented from marrying the employee on account of age, consanguinity, or prior undissolved marriage to another. A domestic partner may be of the same or opposite gender as the employee.”
To register with these cities as domestic partners, the employee and the partner must file an affidavit swearing that they fit the definition of domestic partner. They also swear that they will inform the city if they no longer meet the definition.
In order to register with these cities as domestic partners, the employee and the partner must file an affidavit swearing that they fit the definition of domestic partner. They also swear that they will inform the city if they no longer meet the definition.