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Editorial: UA's stand on benefits for gays long overdure

Arizona Daily Wildcat
March 8, 1999
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Universities have long been the liberal center from which bold attitudes and plans spread. While the University of Arizona is no University of California, Berkeley, we might as well be in this state firmly held by conservatives who are often ideological throwbacks to decades when gays and feminists were evil.

A case in point is university President Peter Likins' public vow to help the university's gay employees gain insurance benefits for their partners. Partners of gay university employees are now ineligible for benefits though partners of gay Pima County and Tucson employees do enjoy benefits.

While the state Legislature is haggling over a plan that would deny benefits to gay and unmarried partners, Likins is pledging to join the three universities in a task force proposing these benefits be allowed.

While uberconservatives in the state Legislature are staking their proposal on an archaic statute outlawing "cohabitation" and personal observations that homosexuality is "disgustingly disturbing," Likins is sympathizing with homosexual employees. He even told 75 members of the university Outreach Program that one of his six children is gay.

The contrast is as sharp as that between pre-Civil Rights Movement America and post, and shows that for gays in this state, a mentality toward civil rights will have a difficult dawning.

The state universities should be the vanguard leading Arizona through this dawning.

Winning insurance benefits for the partners of homosexual employees at the university is just a start.

Likins cautioned the universities face a hard fight with a dim prospect for victory.

After all, state universities in the fight drag a significant weight - dependence on the state Legislature.

"We have a very conservative Legislature," Regent Judy Gignac told the Wildcat. "Under the current make-up of the Legislature, I don't see any support."

This should not be the death knell nor even pause for reconsidering the fight, though. The University of Arizona may be in for some uneven clashes with the legislature but the very clashes themselves may produce something more valuable than mere insurance benefits: A long-overdue challenge to anti-gay factions in the state.