City of Houston Extends Insurance Benefits to Same-Sex Spouses of Employees

Two weeks after winning re-election to her final term, Houston Mayor Annise Parker has extended City of Houston benefits to the same-sex spouses of city employees.

Mayor Parker says based on a legal opinion she requested from her city attorney, the city will now extend health and life insurance benefits to same-sex spouses who are legally married.

Parker says the city will recognize all legal marriages, using the same guidelines as the federal government.

"Based on the right to equal protection under the law, it is unconstitutional for the city to continue to deny benefits to the same-sex spouses of our employees who are legally married. This change is not only the legal thing to do, it is the right, just, and fair thing to do."

In 2001, Houston voters passed a charter amendment that prohibits the city from granting same-sex benefits to domestic partners. Parker says the amendment specifically allows benefits to be applied to legal spouses.

"I can only assume that it was contemplated that there would never be a time when same-sex couples were in legally sanctioned relationships that could ever be recognized in a state or by the federal government."

Parker says it's unclear how many city employees will be eligible for the benefits, but the number is expected to have little effect on the city's insurance costs. Parker's partner of nearly 24 years, Kathy Hubbard, is not eligible because they are not married.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...