Austin Makes up for COBRA Ineligibility for Same-sex Partners

November 3, 2009 ( - Austin (Texas) City Manager Marc Ott has informed the City Council that COBRA-like benefits will be made available to the same-sex domestic partners of City employees.

The Austin American Statesman reports that an announcement from Council Member Bill Spelman’s office said the benefit will make available health care coverage to same-sex partners of City employees in case of the employee’s termination, divorce, or death. The partner of one of Spelman’s former employees raised the issue with Spelman after the employee passed away, and the partner attempted to access COBRA benefits, but discovered he was ineligible, according to the news report.

Since the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) is a federal program, it uses the definition of “spouse” from the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines “spouse” as a husband or wife of the opposite sex.

The American Statesman claims the City of Austin will be the first city in Texas to offer this benefit to its employees. The City of Austin has offered domestic partner benefits since 2006.

“Equality Texas applauds the City of Austin for fully extending equal benefits to its employees,” said Equality Texas Executive Director Paul Scott, in the news report.