April can be the cruelest month. In a defeat for civil rights and home rule in Texas, Texas Attorney Greg Abbott scaled back rights for same-sex couples in cities such as Austin, Pflugerville, El Paso, Fort Worth, and others.
In November, State Senator Dan Patrick sent a request for an official opinion to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, asking this question:
“Does Art. 1, §32 of the Texas Constitution that defines marriage as one man and one woman and prohibits government recognition of any legal status identical or similar to marriage preclude political subdivisions of Texas from providing so-called domestic partnership benefits to their employees?”
Patrick had been upset that insurance benefits were offered to members of same-sex couples in Travis County, the City of Austin, Pflugerville ISD, El Paso, Fort Worth, the City of San Antonio, and El Paso County.
Abbott's letter first argues that Section 32 – the section in question – applies to Texas cities, counties, and school districts (no word yet on municipal utility districts or MUDs). It then asks whether these political subdivisions have created or recognized a legal status, and, if so, whether that legal status is identical or similar to marriage.
Abbott's letter answers “yes” to both questions, at the end stating that Section 32 “prohibits political subdivisions from creating a legal status of domestic partnership and recognizing that status by offering public benefits based upon it,” but not before cautioning that the U.S. Supreme Court's upcoming rulings on DOMA and Prop 8 might make this very letter unenforceable.