Battle underway over same-sex benefits

By Bill Spencer - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - As legally married husband and husband, Noel Freeman and Brad Pritchett do everything together; they are partners in life.

"It is our responsibility to create one life together and that means providing for each other," Noel said.

But because both Noel and Brad are men, Noel, a City of Houston employee, has never been able to provide medical insurance to his husband through his city employee medical plan.

In November, all that changed when Mayor Annise Parker announced that based on a landmark decision, suddenly all lawfully married city employees, including those in same sex marriages, would now be eligible for spousal benefits.

Immediately, within 45 minutes of the announcement, Noel and Brad signed up, agreeing to pay an extra $2,160 a year for this expanded medical coverage.

But within weeks, that new expanded coverage was promptly suspended, after a Republican tax payer group filed a lawsuit saying the mechanism used to offer these expanded benefits was illegal and violated the city charter, state law and the Defense of Marriage Act.

Now, Noel and Brad have filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court against Mayor Parker and the City of Houston.

The two are joined in the suit by two other same-sex married couples.

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