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Iowa teachers
union requests health coverage for gay couples

Iowa teachers
union requests health coverage for gay couples

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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