Fort Worth

Fort Worth offers spousal pension benefits to married same-sex couples

Fairness Fort Worth and other gay rights activists photographed Nov. 10, 2009. Starting Sunday, the city will offer spousal benefits to same-sex married couples, just as for city employees married to opposite-sex couples.
Fairness Fort Worth and other gay rights activists photographed Nov. 10, 2009. Starting Sunday, the city will offer spousal benefits to same-sex married couples, just as for city employees married to opposite-sex couples. Star-Telegram archives

Starting Sunday, Fort Worth will join Austin and Houston in offering spousal pension benefits to married same-sex couples.

Cpl.Tracey Knight, with the Fort Worth Police Department, said she and her wife burst into tears when they got the news.

“It was a relief to know that if — God forbid — I get killed in the line of duty, that my family will be taken care of like any other family of a fallen Fort Worth officer,” Knight said in an email.

The change, announced to employees Wednesday in an internal newsletter, comes after David Mack Henderson, president of Fairness Fort Worth, urged the city to re-evaluate its policies, especially after the U.S. Supreme Court case United States v. Windsor struck down parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

“It was clear we needed to examine the current landscape, because things have been happening in Washington and in the courts in the last five years that needed to be addressed,” said Henderson, who also worked to put lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues back on the city’s federal legislative agenda after a four-year absence.

Surviving spouses in a same-sex marriage will be eligible for the 75 percent survivor benefit as long as they can document that they married a city employee in a state where same-sex marriage is legally recognized.

“The City of Fort Worth has been working hard to be an inclusive environment for our employees and our citizens,” Assistant City Manager Susan Alanis said in a statement. “The City of Fort Worth has an IRS-qualified pension plan; therefore, it makes sense for us to allow all legally married employees to be treated the same under that federally qualified plan.”

Domestic partners have been eligible for insurance coverage with the city since 2011. Fort Worth subsidizes the cost for domestic partners of a city employee at the same rate as any other employee.

Henderson urged the city to re-evaluate its policies and pushed for more changes after Fort Worth lost points for the first time in the Human Rights Campaign’s assessment of LGBT issues in U.S. municipalities.

“Every community needs to know they are valued and appreciated in all aspects of our city life,” Henderson said.

“The city of Fort Worth has made it clear that they value all employees and our families on an equal basis, and that sets standards for how we do business in our city and in our economic development and outreach to job creators who do the same.”

In November 2013, not long after the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down, Houston Mayor Annise Parker announced that the city would offer benefits to all legally married spouses of city employees.

The decision, though embroiled in a lawsuit, still stands, said Janice Evans, Parker’s chief policy officer.

Dallas does not offer spousal benefits.

Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984

Twitter: @catyhirst

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