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USU attorney says Utah gay marriage ban disallows DP benefits

USU attorney says Utah gay marriage ban disallows DP benefits

Utah State University's attorney has concluded that Amendment 3, a recently passed state ban on same-sex marriage, likely prohibits extending the school's medical benefits to the partners of gay and lesbian employees. Amendment 3 likely would override any potential domestic-partner benefit action by state institutions, said USU general counsel Craig Simper. The domestic-partner benefits proposed by a committee of faculty members were discussed Monday at the university's faculty forum meeting. The proposal was sent back to committee and will not be on the faculty senate agenda for formal discussion, said Janis Boettinger, faculty senate president. "We're all state employees, and we have to uphold the state constitution," Boettinger said. The issue could be discussed in the future, she said. "There will be more study of the whole thing, but right now our hands are tied," Boettinger said. Amendment 3 was passed by Utah voters in November and became effective January 1. It says marriage consists only of the legal union between a man and a woman and that no other domestic union may be recognized as a marriage or given the same or substantially equal legal effect. Supporters of the benefits proposal cite the 1993 university policy that states, "University executives, administrators, faculty, and supervisory staff will ensure that no employee or student is discriminated against/harassed because of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability, or veteran's status." "Policies are binding," said anthropology professor Pat Lambert, who helped create the current benefits proposal. "What does it mean when a university doesn't stand by its policy?" Lambert said she believes benefits are part of the employee's salary. "If we're not offering equal compensation to all our employees, then we're not treating everyone equally," she said. "This is a lawsuit waiting to happen." Offering domestic-partner benefits is a national trend, with many universities and Fortune 500 companies making such benefits available, she said. (AP)

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