Community reacts to Pflugerville ISD domestic partner benefits


by QUITA CULPEPPER / KVUE News and photojournalist JOHN FISHER

Posted on October 18, 2012 at 6:10 PM

Updated Thursday, Oct 18 at 8:06 PM

PFLUGERVILLE, Texas -- Opponents of Pflugerville ISD’s planning to offer domestic partner benefits to its employees will speak up at Thursday night's school board meeting.

Though some people applaud the move, others say they don't like the way the decision was made.

Pflugerville employees began signing up for the new domestic partner benefits program this week. Under the plan, PISD will only pay to cover the district employee.

“Since the employee is paying for the premiums of the partner, it doesn't cost the school district any money,” said Chuck Smith with Equality Texas. He believes extending benefits will help the district keep good teachers.

“The district is doing this because they're trying to do the best thing for all their employees,” Smith said.

He says it's clear to him why some are not happy about the district's decision.

“The only reason we're talking about this on the news is it includes gay people, and some people don't like gay people,” Smith said.

Steve Washburn, senior pastor of Pflugerville First Baptist Church, disagrees.

“No, it's not because this is same-sex included within the domestic relationships,” Washburn said.

Washburn says the community didn't hear anything about the domestic partner benefits plan until it was already put in place.

“It has the feel of being crammed down our throats,” Washburn said. “We only found out about this 10 days ago. The majority of the community, we believe, would not approve of this if it were put to a referendum.”

Pflugerville ISD will be just one of a handful of school districts across the nation to offer insurance benefits to same-sex and heterosexual domestic partners.

Smith and others who oppose the plan say by speaking out during Thursday night's meeting, they hope to change the district's mind or at least have an open discussion about the issue.

Pflugerville Superintendent Charles Dupre issued a statement Thursday saying in part, "By expanding our coverage, we are sending a clear message that all staff members and their families are valued members of our team, of the PISD family."

Thursday night's school board meeting starts at 7 p.m. at Pflugerville ISD’s administration building.