The Employees Retirement System of Texas has announced that beginning this month, employee spouses would be entitled to all employment benefits including health coverage and spousal retirement benefits. According to the agency’s website, that applies to all state agencies and to those who have retired from the state. It also applies to the employees of state colleges and universities.
Laura Chambers, who is the director of employee benefits for the entire University of Texas System, says those at UT have been discussing the idea for some time now, well ahead of the recent court ruling.
“Because we knew the decision from the Supreme Court would be coming out eventually and we made no determination and no plans because we did not know what their ruling was going to be,” Chambers explained.
While other state agencies waited to start offering benefits to gay and lesbian couples, Chambers says an interpretation of the Supreme Court ruling was pretty easy to read. So far, she says no religious freedoms on their 15 campuses have been violated.
“We worked very closely with our Office of General Counsel and the guidance from the Supreme Court was pretty clear, so there wasn’t, they really didn’t leave much for us to discuss,” Chambers stressed.
Following the ruling, Governor Greg Abbott issued a memo to all state agencies asking that they respect individual’s rights to religious liberties which included opposing the court’s decision regarding state’s recognition of gay marriage. Attorney General Ken Paxton also issued a non-binding opinion that said county clerks and judges could deny marriage to a same-sex couple and that the AG’s office would be ready to assist with pro-bono legal aid should they be sued for not issuing a license.
Chambers says they have not had any protest or negative feedback on whether or not the school or, for that matter now the state should be providing same-sex partner benefits.