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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Not married? UA says no problem

In the saga that is the Arizona budget crisis, there have been several legislative measures proposed and passed. Some, such as Proposition 100, are Band-Aid solutions meant to stop the bleeding rather than heal the cuts. Others, such as the decision to sell state buildings and lease them back to generate fast income, are as shocking as they are demonstrative of the severity of the situation Arizonans face.

The sting of state shortfalls is especially potent for Arizona’s three universities, where colleges have been forced to combine to maintain viability, stops have been pulled out to entice prospective new students, and faculty members have been furloughed to cut costs.

Still it wasn’t enough to maintain competitiveness in the old Pac-10, or assure it in the new Pac-12. So state legislators dug deeper into the cushions until they found the shiny silver gleam they had been looking for all along: insurance.

Last September, just as the health care debate was ratcheting up to levels unseen since the socialist agenda that was Medicare and Medicaid, Arizona lawmakers passed House Bill 2013, a bill that retooled the state’s definition of “”dependent”” to exclude domestic partners of state employees. The bill also excluded children within those same domestic partnerships.

Fast forward to June, where health care reform has raised the age of dependency for full-time students to 26, and two Arizona universities still deny coverage to employees in domestic partnerships. The UA, thankfully, is not one of them.

Earlier this month, the UA announced it would set up a special insurance plan for employees with domestic partners. The plan will not utilize any state funds (as insurance companies do not yet accept tender from the Game of Life) and offers vision and medical coverage, as well as a choice between two dental plans.

While the UA’s actions should be applauded, they should also not be necessary. Arizona, as a state, should never have passed and enforced a bill that specifically targets those who don’t jive with the traditionalist view of what love is between people.

Until 2008, Arizona did not offer benefits to domestic partners of state employees. The UA and ASU were the only Pac-10 institutions that did not offer these benefits, though Phoenix and Tucson are the only two cities in the state to offer domestic partnership registries, which allow employers to determine eligibility for benefits.

This fact was cited by UA President Robert Shelton as one of the primary reasons for instituting the special plan. In a memo sent out to the UA campus after benefits were revoked, Shelton wrote, “”When coverage for domestic partners was announced last year, we celebrated the State’s stance. HB 2013 challenges our values of equity and inclusion and also appears to exclude vital health insurance coverage for many disabled dependents. Benefits parity is essential for a world-class university and we are resolved to achieve it.””

This bill was passed, like most legislation nowadays, to save the state money. It’s an admirable goal to be sure, but one which is misapplied in this instance in order to continue to repress those who are already marginalized in our society. In a September 2009 article in the Arizona Daily Star, Alan Ecker, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Administration, said the state spent $3 million to cover domestic partners. That is a large sum, yes, but it pales in comparison to the $625 million Ecker said Arizona spends on insurance benefits for other employees and it is downright paltry compared to the $735 million the state received in January from selling state buildings, including state Capitol buildings. 

Not only are there better ways to secure new revenue for the state of Arizona (a progressive taxation policy comes to mind) but there are also ways to save money that don’t involve satisfying some thinly-veiled agenda. To disguise what amounts to a slap in the face to homosexual or unmarried heterosexual couples in the state of Arizona by denying basic benefits under the guise of the severe economic crisis is where this legislation crosses the line from head-scratching to browbeating. 

— Luke Money is a journalism junior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

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