Rep. Drew Springer (R-Muenster) is again trying to bar Texas school districts from offering benefits to the same-sex partners of employees.
Springer has introduced a budget amendment that would eliminate state funding for districts that violate the Texas Constitution, which prohibits recognition of same-sex partnerships.
The amendment is similar to a bill Springer authored two years ago, which cleared committee but was never considered on the floor. Under Springer’s budget amendment, the education commissioner, in consultation with the attorney general, would decide whether districts have violated the Constitution. Districts would have 60 days to correct the problem.
According to Equality Texas, Springer’s amendment is aimed at the Austin, Pflugerville and San Antonio school districts, which offer “plus-one” benefits that are inclusive of same-sex partners. But the group says those benefits are in line with a 2013 opinion from former Attorney General Greg Abbott, which found that such programs are only illegal if they create or recognize a status similar to marriage.
“The benefit programs allow an employee to name a second person who is financially interdependent with them and co-resides with them to receive benefits,” the group said. “The programs were constructed to comply with Attorney General guidance. Although Rep. Springer believes these programs to be in violation of the state Constitution, absent additional attorney general opinions, they would not be affected by the new level of bureaucracy his amendment attempts to create.”
Springer couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
The danger for LGBT advocates, of course, is that GOP Attorney General Ken Paxton—who is suing to block benefits for same-sex couples under the Family and Medical Leave Act—would take the position that the “plus-one” programs violate the Constitution. However, like much of the anti-gay marriage legislation introduced this year, Springer’s amendment—even if it passes—would presumably be negated by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality in June.
Another budget amendment, from Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston), would require school districts to collect data on incidents of discrimination and harassment against LGBT students and employees. A similar amendment was defeated in a 90-43 House vote in 2013.
The House begins debating the budget Tuesday. The proposed amendments from Springer and Coleman are below: