As a good lesbian academic at a school with no domestic partner health insurance benefits, I have a google alert set up for the words "domestic partner benefits," and the number of times those words come up in stories related to universities and colleges might surprise you. Discussions are happening all over the country about adding domestic partner benefits, even in these bad economic times.
Health insurance benefits for domestic partners have been adopted in large public institutions in 30 states, and even more private institutions across the country. Some public university employees obtained benefits when their state adopted domestic partner benefits, such as employees of public institutions in Alaska and Wisconsin. Some of the latest additions are even a little hard to believe if you don't see it in print: the University of Alabama at Birmingham and University of Wyoming. The adoption of these benefits doesn't seem to be slowing: LGBT groups at state universities in Missouri, Kansas, and Texas are asking administrators to consider adding these benefits. The President of the University of Delaware has asked legislators to approve domestic partner benefits for state employees. The administrators at Syracuse, a private institution, are even considering "grossing up"--that is, paying employees who have domestic partners registered for insurance for the added tax costs of the imputed income.
Have we reached the tipping point? Are we going to see the quick and inevitable adoption of these benefits across the country?
Maybe, maybe not. It certainly hurt when the legislature and Governor of Arizona colluded to strip away recently provided domestic partner health benefits from state employees in fall 2009. Legislators in Alabama and Wyoming are trying to make it impossible for UAB and UW to provide benefits to domestic partners (see links above). The takeaway seems to be that obtaining a benefit and keeping it aren't the same thing.
So, what do you think? How long before all colleges and universities offer health insurance (or $/vouchers for insurance) for domestic partners?