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City Of Dallas Mulls Same-Sex Marriage Questions

Bud Gillett, CBS 11 News | CBSDFW.COM
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DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - The issue of same-sex marriage in Texas has gotten the attention of Dallas City Hall.

City staff clearly thinks same-sex marriage is coming in spite of a state constitutional amendment prohibiting it. Still, it was discussed as if it is the wave of the future before the Budget, Finance and Audit Committee.

“We will be shooting ourselves in the foot if we are not the most open and inclusive city we can be,” said Philip Kingston.  “From a legal perspective, we know what the outcome needs to be here.  My personal perspective is it’s morally the right thing to do.”

Most committee members, as well as the staffers conducting the briefing, appear to think same-sex marriage is headed here. “I think there’s a trend coming in America and we need to look at it,” according to Mayor Pro Tem Tennell Atkins, a committee member.

Staffers ran through a recent list of legal rulings, along with nearly 20-states and 30-odd countries that recognize same-sex arrangements, including marriage.  “What are the current ordinances we have on the books? And are those sufficient to meet these changes?” asked Interim Assistant City Attorney Theresa O’Donnell. “And then how can the city acknowledge and recognize LGBT couples and families?” she asked.

Discussion touched on what benefits might be created for city employees in same-sex relationships, something appealing to LGBT groups, according to Rafael McDonnell of the Resource Center, formerly the Dallas Resource Center.  “There may be some changes within benefits, there may be changes with other things,” he told CBS 11 News.

But not all were on board with approving what was called “marriage equality.”

“Okay, so what are we trying to do here?  Are we looking for a way around state law?” asked Councilman Sheffie Kadane. He said it is a moral and religious issue with him. “It is totally a moral issue, and I don’t know why we keep fooling with this unless unless you’re looking at some reason for some way to try to change state law.”

Kadane has a like-minded advocate in the form of Dr. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of Dallas’ First Baptist Church.  “What I would say to people who don’t share the Christian faith or believe in the authority of the Bible, there are good sociological reasons for limiting a marriage to be between a man and a woman.”

Dr. Jeffress argues there would be unintended secular consequences as well as spiritual ones.  Polygamist groups, he claims, are already suing governmental entities.  And adding benefits to Dallas’ work force could be costly.  “That would be a tremendous burden to taxpayers and why would you limit it to two men or two women living together? What about a heterosexual couple who happen to be living together? Why discriminate against them?”

Dr. Jeffress continued, “I believe in full constitutional rights for everyone including homosexuals. But the right to marry is not a constitutional right.  Otherwise 15-year-olds could marry or siblings could marry and we recognized the state’s right to regulate marriage.”

Right now this is still in the discussion stage.  But the staff is asked to come back next month with numbers on financial benefits; the committee chair hinted that would be the last meeting before going to the full council.   “One more committee meeting, particulary with the discussion of financial benefits,” Jerry Allen told the committee.

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