A teachers union
is asking the Dubuque, Iowa, school district to
provide health coverage for same-sex couples. The Dubuque
Education Association, which is negotiating its annual
contract with the district, said a gay rights movement
in the city prompted it to make the request.
On Monday, the city council passed an ordinance
that protects gays from discrimination when seeking
housing, employment, credit, education, or service.
"We were looking at it from the standpoint of just being
proactive," said Joe Tollari, DEA's chief negotiator and a
science teacher at Dubuque High School. "We knew it
might come up for us in the future."
District officials said the request raises
several issues. For example, the DEA wants coverage
for "domestic partners," a term officials said can be
interpreted different ways. "They are talking about
same-sex partners, but what if that also means a man and
woman who are unmarried but live together?" said Stan
Rheingans, the district's human resource director.
"This is the very first time it's been asked for, so
we haven't had time to discuss it at length."
The district's insurance company would have to
review the proposal before it's accepted, Rheingans
said. If granted, the request would force the company
to cover more people, which would also likely increase
insurance costs, he said.
Two other districts in Iowa's Urban Education
Network, the state's eight largest public school
districts, offer health insurance for gay couples:
Iowa City and Cedar Rapids.
The DEA proposal would require that the couples
live together, are single, and don't qualify for
coverage as common-law spouses. The couples would also
be required to notify the district if they break up.
Tollari said the DEA had not taken a poll of its
membership and was unsure whether it supported the
proposal. "We're just thinking ahead," Tollari said.
"This issue is going to come up sooner or later, but
there was no impetus from the membership." (AP)
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