Some Pennsylvania legislators are threatening to cut off funds to Temple University after administrators and union officials representing campus employees worked out a deal to provide the unions with health insurance benefits for domestic partners.
The deal resolved a problem that arose from the contract the Temple University Graduate Student union (TUGSA) won in April 2002.
The contract included a provision that granted partners of employees in same-sex relationships with the option to enroll in University-provided health insurance.
Because TUGSA received this benefit, all of the University’s unions also received it, under what is called a “me too” clause in the union contracts.
In October, Pennsylvania Blue Cross, the University health insurance provider, said it could not provide benefits to same-sex partners because this discriminated against couples of the opposite sex who were living together, according to University Chief Financial Officer Martin Dorph.
The unions filed a grievance against the University, which was denied. The University agreed in mid-November to open the health benefits up to opposite-sex domestic partners in addition to same-sex partners, according to TUGSA co-president Jon Rothermel.
An agreement between the unions and the University was signed in early February.
Domestic partners of employees who wish to enroll in the health insurance program must provide evidence that they are in committed relationships in order to receive the benefit.
Rothermel said he was pleased with the outcome of the negotiations, and that in securing benefits for opposite-sex domestic partners, “we actually got more than we had bargained for.”
Conservative state legislators have threatened that they might take action against the University because of the same-sex benefits.
“I think people view a move such as Temple’s as a move toward allowing same-sex marriages,” Republican state Rep. Jeff Coleman was quoted as saying in an article in the Feb. 15 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
In the same article, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, also a Republican, said, “I know I, for one, as will a number of my colleagues, advance the position that we should defund [Temple] totally.”
Temple receives approximately $172.5 million each year from the state, according to University President David Adamany.
“It would be unacceptable and extremely disgusting if members of the state legislature would punish Temple for adopting standards in healthcare that have been a long time coming,” Rothermel said.
The University does not pay for health benefits for domestic partners of either the same or opposite sex, Adamany said.
“[The legislators] may not have full knowledge of the domestic partner benefit program,” said Adamany.
“No state or University money is going into this program.”
Domestic partners enrolled in University health insurance must pay for the costs of the benefits, he said.
Adamany said that the University needed to provide domestic partner benefits in order to stay competitive with other local universities and corporations that do provide these benefits to their employees.
“The legislators may not realize how competitive the situation is for [hiring] faculty,” he said.
“I expect that the [Pennsylvania congressional] appropriations committees will give us a full and fair hearing on all matters related to our budget.”
Brian White can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.