In response to the El Paso City Council's decision to expand health care coverage to unmarried partners of city employees, a group of El Pasoans drafted a "Family Values" ordinance with the intent to deny health benefits to domestic partners of city employees.
In November, 2010, the "Family Values" ordinance went before city voters and passed with 55 percent of the votes. However, the results were clouded by the ambiguous and unclear wording of the ordinance.
Of the over 100 people whose benefits were in jeopardy, 19 were city employees including two who are gay. The others at risk of losing their benefits because of the wording of the referendum were foster children; retired police officers, firefighters, and other retirees; grandchildren; and disabled relatives.
On June 14, 2011, Mayor John Cook introduced an ordinance to restore benefits to all city employees. The El Paso City Council members voted 4 to 4 - with Mayor Cook breaking the tie - to restore health benefits to all city employees.
In response to a subsequent effort by the Family Values group to remove him from office through a recall election, Mayor Cook committed his own personal funds to successfully fight the case in the Texas 8th Court of Appeals.
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What they said:
"The City of El Paso, Texas endorses traditional family values by making health benefits available only to city employees and their legal spouse and dependent children."
What they wanted:
The language of the "traditional family values" proposed ordinance was a veiled attempt to discriminate against gay employees and their
SEQUENCE OF EVENTS leading up to the decision of the court
• Aug 25, 2009 - El Paso City Council votes 7 to 1 to extend health benefits to the unmarried partners of city employees, including homosexual couples.
• June 2010 - El Pasoans for Family Values, led by Pastor Tom Brown, submits a petition with 4,000 signatures thus putting a proposed ordinance before the voters to determine if the health benefit package for the domestic partners of city employees should be disallowed.
• November 2, 2010 – The ambiguous and poorly-worded proposed ordinance passed with 55 percent of the vote.
• June 14, 2011 – The El Paso City Council voted 4 to 4 on the issue of restoring health benefits. Mayor John Cook broke the tie, thus restoring benefits to all city employees.
• July 18, 2011 – The Family Values group pursues an intent to recall Mayor John Cook and two other members of the El Paso City Council because of their vote in favor of restoring benefits.
• September 12, 2011 – The mayor files his own injunction against the group for using fraudulent means of acquiring signatures on the recall petition.
• November 28, 2011 – The recall is allowed to move forward when a state court judge denies Mayor Cook’s request.
* February 18, 2012 – The Texas 8th Court of Appeals rules for Mayor Cook and says the recall petitions were obtained illegally and the recall election cannot be held.
March 23, 2012 – The Texas Supreme Court denies motions to overrule the February 18th ruling by the Eighth Court of Appeals, thus ending the recall election. Elected officials who are within 12 months of the end of their term can’t be recalled, therefore, the Family Values group effectively lose their battle to remove Mayor Cook and two city council members from office.
Click here to read the documents leading to the court's decision against the recall.