UC Grants Equal Benefits to Same-Sex Relationships

The University of California Board of Regents approved a policy Thursday granting the same-sex domestic partners of UC faculty and staff pension benefits equal to those currently received by spouses and dependants of UC employees.

“As employees of UC they’re entitled to the same equality, dignity and respect as any other employee,” Regent Ward Connerly told the UCLA Daily Bruin earlier this week. “That they’re involved in a same-sex relation is not my business. They are valued employees and deserve benefits like everyone else.”

Previously, only spouses or eligible dependents of UC Retirement Plan members, such as children and parents, could receive income benefits and free lifetime health insurance in the event of that employee’s death.

UCRP members become eligible for retirement benefits at the age of 50. There are currently about 128,500 UCRP members. As of October 2001, there were approximately 950 UC employees with same-sex domestic partners participating in UC medical plans.

The newly approved benefits will have a one-time cost of about $139 million to the UCRP and an additional $7 million annually.

In the United States, 184 colleges and universities, including Harvard, Yale, Stanford and University of Michigan already allocate benefits without regard to sexual orientation.

The UC extended health benefits to domestic partners in 1997; this is the first time since then that the regents have taken action on this issue. The new benefits will be effective by July 1 of this year.

“For many of us, the idea of not being able to pass on our hard-earned retirement benefits has been a real concern,” said Shane Snowdon, chair of the UC’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Association in a statement. “We are deeply grateful to the University for the increased financial peace of mind this gives us and our families.”

Affirmative Action Upheld in Federal Court

Washington, DC – The United States sixth circuit court of appeals ruled 5-4 Tuesday that the University of Michigan law school’s affirmative action admissions policy was justified.

The university proved in court that it would be unable to ensure significant enrollment of underrepresented students if it did not consider race as ground for admission.

“This is a great day for the University of Michigan and for educators across the nation,” Interim University of Michigan President B. Joseph White said. “I am pleased the court recognized that diversity brings educational benefits to all students – minority and majority alike. … Today’s decision is significant not only for higher education but for our country as a whole. We must prepare our students to learn and to lead in the world’s most diverse democracy.”

Representatives said the law school adopted the policy to foster diversity in education, and that the decision was not a response to student and community pressure to ensure racial equality.

Several universities, including the University of California, have rescinded affirmative action admissions policies in recent years. The UC changed its affirmative action policy after statewide Proposition 209 passed the ballots in 1996. Prop 209 prohibits public universities, colleges and schools in California from discriminating against or giving preferential treatment to any individual or group in public employment, public education or public contracting on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.

“Race must be a factor in admissions because race is a factor in educational opportunity,” said Liz Geyer, who directs the U.S. Student Association’s campus diversity project. “Universities with a serious commitment to equal opportunity must put substantial resources toward recruiting and retaining underrepresented students.”

The case is expected to be appealed to the Supreme Court.

-Compiled by Stephanie Tavares and Diana Ray