By a one-vote margin, the University of California Board of Regents approved a plan Friday to offer health benefits to domestic partners of its gay employees.
The plan was approved 13-12, with one abstention, after Gov. Pete Wilson made two 11th-hour regent appointments, provoking charges he was trying to “stack” the board. Both appointees voted against the plan.
“I was very relieved, ecstatic,” said Jonathan Winters, a UC Berkeley employee and member of the UC Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Association.
The vote came 16 years after a gay UC employee first asked the university to provide health coverage for his partner. He was turned down.
Under the plan, domestic partners must be at least 18, the couple has to have lived together for at least a year, be in a “long-term relationship of infinite duration,” and provide documents showing mutual home ownership or lease, common bank accounts or investments, among other requirements.
The plan applies to 130,000 employees on the UC system’s nine campuses. UC has estimated it could cost an extra $1.5 million to $5 million a year.
Opponents, including Wilson, said extending the benefits would be “devaluing marriage.”
Supporters countered it was an issue of equality and that without the plan, UC’s ability to recruit and retain quality professors would suffer because comparable institutions already offer such benefits.