Same-sex benefits get Regents’ OK

Anna Conover

Same-sex couples at Iowa State may soon receive the same health-insurance benefits as married couples. In July, the state Board of Regents approved 7-1 a policy to treat same-sex partners like spouses for health-insurance purposes at Iowa State and the University of Northern Iowa. A month earlier, the regents approved the policy for the University of Iowa. Currently, Iowa State offers health insurance to domestic partners after meeting eligibility requirements, signing a contract and an affidavit. The only change in the policy would be to allow same-sex couples the same university-subsidized premiums as legally married couples. According to benefits offered this year, the same-sex couple would save around $133 a month. Warren Madden, vice president for Business and Finance, said the expected cost of the program is small. “Based on the number we’re aware of, it’ll cost around $11,000,” he said. This year, four same-sex couples enrolled in the domestic-partners plan at Iowa State. The couples had to meet several eligibility requirements, including executing a notarized-relationship contract and displaying two types of joint ownership. The University Benefits and Annuities Committee, Faculty Senate and Professional and Scientific Council will have to make a recommendation to Interim President Richard Seagrave before the policy is enacted. The subcommittee of the University Benefits and Annuities Committee will be recommending the policy for approval at their Sept. 5 meeting, chairman Mark Power said. If accepted by the committee, the policy will be sent to Seagrave. Seagrave has to accept the policy before the subsidy will be offered to same-sex couples. Regent David Fisher, who voted against the policy, said the policy would be poor public policy because it would create a lot of legal and cost issues. “In time, it will grow and be a tremendous expense item for the citizens of Iowa,” he said. Jeremy Hayes, president of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Ally Alliance, said implementing the policy is a very important step toward proving the validity of same-sex relationships. “The university has become a more positive place to accept LGBTAA issues and I think it will pass,” said Hayes, junior in management information systems. If Seagrave approves the policy this fall, the option would be offered as part of next year’s benefits package.