Undergraduates at the University of Washington will be able to get health insurance for their same-sex domestic partners under a policy approved by the Board of Regents on Friday.
“We believe that in keeping with the University’s commitment to equity and fairness, this is the reasonable and correct thing to do,” President Richard McCormick said in recommending the change to the regents.
With its decision to recognize same-sex domestic partnerships for health benefits, the UW joins dozens of colleges and universities across the country, including seven institutions the state considers UW’s peers. The University of Iowa extended health benefits to domestic partners in 1993, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in 1994 and UCLA in 1996.
“People are finally seeing, yeah, there is this enormous discrimination against same-sex couples,” said Demian, co-director of Partners Task Force for Gay & Lesbian Couples in Seattle. “The UW is behind the curve.”
Under the policy, which goes into effect in the fall, students will be required to register as domestic partners with the city of Seattle or other jurisdictions that have registration programs.
The Seattle city ordinance, passed in 1994, allows same-sex couples to register as domestic partners, provided that: neither are married; they share a relationship of mutual support, caring and commitment; they are 18 or older; they are not related by blood any closer than would bar marriage under Washington state law; and they are each other’s sole domestic partner.
The new policy does not include opposite-sex couples who want to register as domestic partners. Although she fully supported the policy change, Regent Shelly Yapp said, “I would actually prefer that it be without distinction to sexual orientation.”
And students who have been fighting for domestic partner benefits vowed to take up the fight for heterosexual domestic partner benefits next fall.
“The Coalition for Domestic Partnership Equality believes in extending benefits for all couples,” said Lee James. “Far be it from us to start discriminating based on sexual preference.”
The Coalition for Domestic Partnership Equality is a student organization that has been lobbying for six months. Members of the coalition first showed up in a Board of Regents meeting in February, sitting silently with signs around their necks that said, “It’s time to end discrimination.”
Students addressed the regents in two subsequent meetings, and Friday coalition member Lisa Mottet read a statement of thanks.
“Today’s policy decision brings the university several steps closer to the ideals identified in its non-discrimination policy,” Mottet said. “We thank you for your integrity and commitment to fairness.”
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