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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Politicians pare partner benefits

A federal appeals court could cut state-provided benefits for 65 partners of UA employees in same-sex domestic partnerships.

University employee benefits provided by the Arizona Department of Administration cover their partner, their partner’s unmarried natural, adopted or stepchildren under the age of 26 or disabled before the age of 19, their domestic partner’s foster children under age 26 and children under their domestic partner’s guardianship pending adoption.

State lawmakers voted to end the benefits to save money, but Assistant Attorney General Charles Grube said U.S. District Judge John Sedwick was wrong to issue an injunction last year barring the state from altering its benefits package.

This injunction was issued to prevent Arizona from eliminating same-sex domestic partners and their children from the Arizona Department of Administration group insurance coverage. The state has filed a motion in the Ninth Circuit Court to remove it, but as long as the preliminary injunction is in effect, the state must continue benefits eligibility for same-sex domestic partners of UA and other state employees.

Opposite-sex domestic partners were not included in this injunction and are ineligible to be covered under the Arizona Department of Administration.

In reaction, the UA developed the “”UA Alternative Medical Plan,”” which provides plans for the employee in the domestic partnership, their opposite sex partner and children. The insurance plans include medical, dental and vision coverage and are backed by United Health Care.

The plans require that 75 percent of currently enrolled employees with opposite sex domestic partners enroll in the alternative insurance plans.

Morgan Carstensen, a political science sophomore and member of the UA College Republicans, said although the state needs to find ways to cut its budget and limit spending, it is an “”ineffective measure”” to prevent benefits for gay partners.

“”These are desperate times, and we need desperate measures to save money,”” Carstensen said. “”But if it’s just towards gay partners, it’s a violation of equal protection.””

She did say that if the legislation prohibited unmarried gay or straight partners from obtaining benefits that she would be in favor of it, because it prevents a significant other from “”free riding.””

Ryan Klenke, a brother of Delta Lambda Phi, the gay, bisexual and progressive fraternity and a sociology junior, called the potential ruling “”highly discriminatory”” and said it had a “”malicious intent to target same-sex workers.””

Klenke added that if people in same-sex domestic partnerships are doing the same work as people of the opposite sex, they should be getting the same benefits. He said that some state representatives are claiming this is to save money, when it would only be saving less then 2 percent, according to Klenke’s research.

“”This shouldn’t even be an issue,”” he said. “”You cover all or not any.””

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