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November 21, 1997

Board of Regents narrowly approves proposal to provide health care coverage to domestic partners

The University of California Board of Regents today (Friday, Nov. 21) voted 13 to 12, with one abstention, to authorize UC President Richard C. Atkinson to extend health care benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of UC employees and certain other family members who are financially interdependent.

"This was the right decision by our Board of Regents," UCSC Chancellor M.R.C. Greenwood said following the vote. "It recognizes the important principle of equal compensation for equal work and will help to keep our university competitive and world class."

The board also voted unanimously to refer to the Office of the President for further review the issue of student housing benefits for domestic partners. The president will report his findings to the board for action. The measure approved by the board states that "the President be authorized, consistent with his existing authority, to extend health care benefits to University of California employees who are competent adults over the age of 18 in a long-term, committed domestic relationship who are precluded from marriage because they are of the same sex or are incapable under California law of a valid marriage because of family relationship."

Voting in favor of the health care action were Regents Atkinson, William T. Bagley, Roy T. Brophy, Cruz M. Bustamante, Ward Connerly, Gray Davis, Delaine Eastin, Alice J. Gonzales, Meredith J. Khachigian, Judith Willick Levin, Kathryn T. McClymond, Peter Preuss, and Charles Soderquist.

Regents voting against the action were Carol Chandler, Frank W. Clark Jr., John G. Davies, S. Sue Johnson, John Hotchkis, Howard H. Leach, David S. Lee, S. Stephen Nakashima, Ralph M. Ochoa, Gerald L. Parsky, Tom Sayles, and Governor Pete Wilson.

Regent Velma Montoya abstained.

Atkinson brought the proposal before the Regents in July, saying that offering medical, dental, and vision care benefits to same-sex domestic 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 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 UC plan, partners must sign and file with the university an affidavit declaring that they meet UC's criteria and that they have shared a common residence for at least 12 consecutive months. They also must provide proof of mutual financial support.

A special enrollment period for domestic partner benefits is expected to be held in mid to late spring, with benefits effective sometime mid-year. In calling for guidelines governing student housing, Atkinson noted that the changing nature of the student community and fluctuations in local housing markets have led students in different kinds of shared living arrangements to request student family housing. These request typically come from undergraduate, graduate, and professional students living with domestic partners or blood relatives--often a parent, brother, or sister.

Guidelines should be developed, Atkinson said, that would allow campus chancellors, under their existing authority, to adjust eligibility for student family housing to meet local market conditions and the needs of individual campuses. This would include the accommodation of students living with domestic partners and blood relatives but continue to guarantee first priority for housing to students with children.

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