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Dallas County Approves Domestic Partner Policy

Bill Zeeble
Republican Dallas County Commissioners Maurine Dickey, Mike Cantrell

Dallas County has approved an employee health plan that will insure unmarried, gay or lesbian partners. The county becomes just the third in Texas with a domestic partner policy.

Proponents of it, all Democrats, say domestic partner benefits help the county stay competitive by attracting great employees, and luring them from nearby cities and businesses with similar policies.

Republican Commissioner Maurine Dickey uses an economic argument too when she opposes the plan.

"Now we’re taking a small group that we’re setting up as a special issue, as a special group. This is a slippery slope. And the slippery slope is, 'what other groups are we going to fund individually in Dallas County?' Are we going to fund obese people? Are we going to fund smokers? Are we going to fund people with blue Pontiacs before 1978?"

Dickey says Federal law – The Defense of Marriage Act – and state law only recognize marriage between a man and a woman. But County Judge Clay Jenkins says this isn’t about The Defense of Marriage Act. "It’s not about a political statement. What it is about is providing the best benefits for the 6,000 employees in Dallas County."

Most public speakers supported the policy, including Rafael McDonnell, with Resource Center Dallas."Equality for all is not a 'red state' or 'blue state' issue. It is a core issue of these United States. Issues of fairness and justice hold no point on our political spectrum. There is simply no place for pernicious partisanship when it comes to equality," McDonnell said.

Debbie Morozzo was the only citizen voicing opposition. "Court order 17 (the domestic partner measure) is nothing more than a radical political agenda trying to be pushed on the employees of Dallas County and the tax-paying citizens of Dallas County."

Jenkins thanked Morozzo for her comments, then voted to approve the policy. County workers who want to take advantage of the domestic partner plan will have to pay $300 a month to add their partner. County officials expect 10 workers will take advantage of the plan when it goes into effect January 1. 

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.