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Live-in partners unable to get UA benefits package

By Michael Lafleur
Arizona Daily Wildcat
October 1, 1998
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If you're in a long-term, live-in relationship, you're welcome to work at the UA but don't ask for spousal benefits.

So says Arizona Board of Regents President Judy Gignac, who called changing the current married-only benefits policy unfeasible given Arizona's current political climate.

"I don't know if we could go so far afield from state politics," Gignac said. "Off hand, I would say that if there is not a need under law, the Board of Regents would have a very difficult time doing this."

As a result, the idea likely won't be introduced anytime soon, she said. "Arizona is not California or Massachusetts."

Both of the latter states have such policies.

The issue of domestic partner benefits caused a minor uproar last week at the University of Pennsylvania as the faculty senate split over whether the university should extend benefits to live-in girlfriends and boyfriends.

University of Arizona Faculty Chair Jerrold Hogle, however, took issue with the statewide policy.

"I don't know if we have it, but if we don't, we should," Hogle said.

Jerry Ford, the University of Arizona benefits and compensation director, is the person who enforces the statewide policy of not extending benefits to live-in mates.

"When it comes to benefits, we're just another state agency," Ford said.

Gignac added that the broad definition of a domestic partner could cause a considerable increase in the number of recipients - thereby costing big money.

"Costs might, at this point in time, outweigh the benefits," Gignac said.

Some of the major benefits employees receive include:

  • Health insurance
  • Dental insurance
  • Life insurance
  • Pension plans
  • Short- or long-term disability insurance

Ford said he was not aware of university efforts to change the policy or get it approved by the Legislature.

"My title is director of compensation and benefits and no one has come to have a conversation with me (about getting benefits to non-married life partners)," Ford said.

He added because the UA policy of paying workers for unused sick leave days had to be approved by the state Legislature, it is likely any approval would also be necessary to change employee benefit policy.

Same-sex partners also would be excluded under state rules, as a marriage license is required for spouses to receive benefits, Ford said. Same-sex marriages are not allowed in the state of Arizona.

David Allen, who coordinates a discussion group for the Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Association, said he was surprised that a normally tolerant institution such as the UA would deny benefits of this type.

"In all other areas they have policies against sexual orientation discrimination," Allen, a business senior, said. "Usually, the UA promotes understanding of the Gay and Lesbian community."

Allen noted the presence of a gay and lesbian studies department at the UA as an example of tolerant policymaking.

"It seems to go back to the whole issue of accepting homosexuality," he said. "By making homosexual marriages illegal it will not make them go away."

Asked about the UA benefits policies, computer science senior Lance Warrion agreed with the concept of requiring marriage licenses before granting benefit coverage to employee's families.

"You gotta draw the line somewhere," Warrion said. "Otherwise you're gonna have a lot of people looking for loopholes - trying to do this."

Daniel Shields, a psychology junior, said he felt such a narrow definition of who is eligible for benefits excluded deserving people.

"I think it's not really fair because there's all kinds of different circumstances - not everyone is going to get married," Shields said. "It doesn't take into account other situations."

Michael Lafleur can be reached via e-mail at Michael.Lafleur@wildcat.arizona.edu.