Ninety-three law school professors from Pennsylvania's state-related universities have signed a letter urging the state's public universities to offer benefits to employees' same-sex domestic partners. The letter was sent to the head of each public university from law professors at Temple University, Penn State University, and the University of Pittsburgh. Those three schools are state-related in that they receive state funding but are not owned by the state.
The letter said Temple's recent decision to offer the benefits means that "no other university will stand alone on this issue." Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education includes 14 state-owned public universities. System spokesman Kenneth Marshall said he's not aware that the system or any of its schools has received the letter. No state system schools offer same-sex domestic-partner benefits, he said.
Some legislators have threatened to pull state funds from Temple since it announced plans to offer the benefits in February. At Penn State, a private fund set up by an anonymous donor has enabled a handful of staff to receive the benefits. However, the most contentious fight over the benefits has been at the University of Pittsburgh, where seven gay and lesbian staff members sued to get the benefits in 1996. An Allegheny County judge found no evidence of intentional discrimination and issued an order halting that suit. Pitt chancellor Mark Nordenberg then convened a group to study the issue, which recommended against such benefits because of possible backlash from the state legislature.