For once, Temple University did something right.
Last month, the University secured health insurance benefits for the domestic partners of employees. The benefits had been promised last April in the contract signed with the Temple University Graduates Students Union (TUGSA).
But Blue Cross, the University’s insurance provider, denied the coverage because it only covered same-sex relationships, a discriminatory practice under its agreements with the state.
The University agreed to grant the benefits to both same and opposite sex domestic partners to get past this sticking point.
Temple’s unions worked hard to get this provision included in their contracts.
TUGSA’s two-year fight for recognition and a contract was met with stalling tactics and resistance from the University.
However, once the contract was signed, the University demonstrated a willingness to ensure its provisions are honored, including the domestic partner benefits.
Now conservative members of the state legislature are threatening to take all this hard work away.
In mid-February, Republican legislators got wind that homosexuals would be receiving health insurance benefits at Temple.
In the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, several legislators made some not-so-enlightened comments.
Rep. Jeff Coleman said that the legislature would not support a university that provides these benefits.
He also said that by allowing Temple to provide these benefits, the state would appear to be in favor of same-sex marriages.
Rep. Daryl Metcalfe said that he and several of his colleagues would support legislation to take away the $172.5 million that the University receives from the state every year.
This knee-jerk gay bashing demonstrates how backward Pennsylvania is. Denying people healthcare on the basis of their sexuality is both discriminatory and wrong.
Threatening to defund a public university attended by thousands of working and middle class students is just as terrible.
University president David Adamany points out that legislators may not understand that domestic partner benefits are not funded by the state or the University.
All Temple employees receive full benefits, but partners have the option of enrolling and must pay for the insurance themselves.
Benefits go to both gay and straight couples who can demonstrate that they are in committed, long-term relationships.
More universities and corporations are offering domestic partner health benefits, and Adamany says that having the benefits here helps the university compete in hiring employees.
This trend recognizes the changing pattern of domestic life in the United States. Gay couples are at least gaining mainstream acceptance from society, if not from their government.
In many states, sodomy remains illegal, and is sometimes prosecuted in Texas.
Although some states recognize domestic partnership, only Vermont comes close to recognizing gay marriage with its law legalizing marriage-like civil unions between same-sex couples.
It is important for institutions like Temple to stand by progressive measures.
Everyone needs healthcare, regardless of their sexual preference.
In the upcoming contract negotiations with the unions, the University should make a provision and pay for domestic partner benefits.
The University already pays for the benefits of husbands and wives; gay couples should not be punished because it is illegal for them to marry.
Neither should straight couples who are in committed relationships and choose to live together without the legal ties of marriage.
The University has taken a step in the right direction, it must now hold to the path.
The Temple News editorial board members are:
* Jeremy Smith, Editor in Chief
* Mike Gainer, Managing Editor
* Brian White, News Editor
* Kia Gregory, Opinion Editor
Letters to the editor can be submitted via our Web site @ www.temple-news.com under the “submissions” link. They can also be dropped off at the Temple News office located in the Student Center, Room 315.