Benefits Offered for Same-Sex Spouses of Texas State Workers

The Employees Retirement System of Texas said it's now allowing state workers to enroll their same-sex spouses for benefits following last week's U.S. Supreme Court decision, which paved the way for gay marriage nationwide.

The system said Wednesday that it will start accepting applications from state workers to sign up their same-sex spouses for employment and retirement benefits.

The Supreme Court's decision was opposed by Texas Republican leaders, including Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton. They both have moved to protect government employees who oppose gay marriage on religious grounds.

Employees have 30 days after a wedding to enroll a spouse, and couples who were previously married outside of Texas will have 30 days from Friday's court ruling to add a same-sex spouse.

"Someone who married the same gender will be able enroll their spouse in all of our insurance programs," said Cathy Terrell, the group's director of governmental affairs.

The system includes all state employees and higher-education workers not employed by the University of Texas and Texas A&M University systems. Those two university systems said that enrollment will begin Wednesday for similar benefits for their employees.

Same-sex marriage licenses are available in 115 of the state's 254 counties, providing home-county access for around 84 percent of the state's population, according to Equality Texas, an advocacy group for lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender Texans.

Hood County Clerk Katie Lang initially said she wouldn't issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples due to her religious opposition to gay marriage. In a statement posted on the county clerk's website, she cited a legal opinion by Paxton that said clerks wouldn't have to issue gay marriage licenses if doing so would violate their religious beliefs. However, in a statement Wednesday on the county website, Lang says her office will comply with the U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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