December 2, 2005
of Florida approves domestic partner benefits for employees
A story published today
in the Sarasota Herald Tribune reports that
University of Florida's employees will
receive health insurance benefits for their domestic partners under a
measure approved Friday by the school's Board of Trustees.
The vote was 12-1 making UF the state's only public university to
approve such a policy, covers same-sex partners as well as unmarried
straight couples. Married employees have long been able to insure their
UF President Bernie Machen said he thought the measure would be
important for both recruiting and keeping faculty members.
"This is not just about the people who need this benefit. This is also
about people who consider the benefit a statement of the climate of the
campus where they are going to work," Machen said.
Machen said two faculty members left Florida because it did not have
such a policy.
Texas businessman Al Warrington, the only trustee to vote against the
proposal, called it "immoral, unethical and clearly non-scriptural. It's
Warrington, a huge donor to the school, said plans to use University of
Florida Foundation funds to pay for the program, estimated to cost
between $500,000 to $1 million a year, could cut contributions to the
"As one donor, I would be offended if my money went to fund the
program," Warrington said. The university's school of business is named
"I think it could be a real negative. It is for me and it could be for
others and I am a very significant donor."
Kyle Cavanaugh, UF's vice president of human resources who started
similar programs at Rice and Vanderbilt universities, said about 300
universities and colleges nationally offer such benefits. Those wanting
to participate in the program, which begins Feb. 1, will have to sign an
affidavit requesting the benefit and be able to prove they are in a
committed relationship. Like married couples, they will have to pay a
portion of the premium.
"Primarily, the issue is one of national competitiveness," he said. "We
are trying to be as competitive as possible on the national scene."
A similar measure was tabled by the trustees in June 2003, said Steve
Orlando, a university spokesman.
At Friday's meeting, there was no mention of a letter by state Rep.
Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, who asked the trustees to turn down the proposal.
Cretul did not attend the meeting.
Cretul plans to introduce a bill prohibiting the use of taxpayer money
for extending benefits to domestic partners.
"This proposed change is very troubling to me, many of my colleagues in
the Legislature, and to the vast majority of taxpayers in the state of
Florida," his letter said.
An official with a national gay rights group applauded the vote.
"It's wonderful to see the University of Florida to take a leadership
role, stepping out and doing the right thing," said Karen Doering,
regional counsel for the National Center for Lesbian Rights in Tampa.
"This will help them attract and retain the best candidates and the best
and brightest students," she said.
About 295 colleges and universities offer domestic partner benefits, but
approximately half are private institutions - including the University
of Miami, Stetson University and Rollins College in Florida. Three
Florida community colleges also offer domestic partner benefits.
Of the country's top 10 universities as ranked by U.S. News & World
Report magazine, five offer domestic partner benefits and five do not,
according to The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay and
lesbian civil rights group.
UF has about 49,000 students and 12,000 faculty and staff members.