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September 22, 1997

Vote planned for November on domestic partners proposal

By Rick Malaspina
UC Office of the President

The University of California Board of Regents will vote in November on a proposal to provide health benefits to domestic partners of UC faculty, students, staff and retirees.

The issue will be placed on the November agenda at the request of Regents' Chairman Tirso del Junco. He acted at a Regents' meeting today (Sept. 18) in San Francisco at the request of Gov. Pete Wilson. The governor asked the board to postpone consideration of a proposal by UC President Richard C. Atkinson until Wilson could be present for any decision on the matter.

The president's proposal would extend health care benefits to same-sex partners. He also proposed that guidelines be established to allow students living with domestic partners or blood relatives to share student family housing.

"This is a matter of great significance within the university community," Atkinson said. "I believe it is in the best interest of the university to postpone implementation of this proposal until the Regents can act and provide direction."

Atkinson brought the proposal before the Regents for continued discussion, saying that offering medical, dental, and vision care benefits to same-sex partners would strengthen UC's ability to compete for faculty and staff without significantly increasing costs to the university.

Of eight universities UC uses for comparison purposes, four private institutions -- Stanford, MIT, Yale, and Harvard -- and two of four public universities -- the University of Michigan and SUNY Buffalo -- offer health benefits to domestic partners of their employees and retirees.

The university has no means to determine the number of individuals who would apply for domestic partner benefits. Based on the experience of other institutions and businesses, however, estimates of the cost of providing health benefits to same-sex partners would range from $1.9 million to $5.6 million a year.

Under the president's proposal, a domestic partner of a UC employee is defined as an unmarried partner of the same sex. Both must be at least 18 years old and not married to anyone else.

Guidelines for the use of student family housing, Atkinson said, should be developed to allow campus chancellors, under their existing authority, to accommodate students living with domestic partners and blood relatives. First priority for housing would continue to be provided to students with children.

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