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UF trustees grant benefits to gay workers' partners

Associated Press
Published December 3, 2005


GAINESVILLE - Gay and lesbian employees of the University of Florida will receive health insurance benefits for their domestic partners under a measure approved Friday by the school's board of trustees.

The 12-1 vote made UF the state's only public university to approve such a policy, which also extends to unmarried heterosexual couples. Married employees have long been able to insure spouses.

UF president Bernie Machen thinks the measure will be important for 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," he said.

An official with a gay rights group applauded the vote. "It's wonderful to see the University of Florida take a leadership role," said Karen Doering, regional counsel for the National Center for Lesbian Rights in Tampa.

Texas businessman Al Warrington, the only trustee to vote against the proposal, called it "immoral, unethical and clearly nonscriptural. It's an abomination." He said plans to use University of Florida Foundation funds to pay for the program, estimated to cost $500,000 to $1-million a year, could cut contributions to the school.

Warrington, a major donor for whom the school of business is named, said, "I would be offended if my money went to fund the program. ... 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 domestic partner benefits. Approximately half are private institutions, including three in Florida: the University of Miami, Stetson University and Rollins College.

UF's program begins Feb. 1.

[Last modified December 3, 2005, 01:21:14]


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