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University of Arizona to Reinstate Benefits for Domestic Partners

The University of Arizona plans to reinstate domestic partner benefits despite a new law that goes into effect October 1, eliminating benefits for domestic partners of state workers. According to the Arizona Daily Star, the university will offer medical, dental, and vision plans to domestic partners through an alternate plan that is not funded by any state money. Allison Vaillancourt, University of Arizona vice president for human resources, told the Arizona Daily Star that the school is offering the coverage because “in order for us to be competitive, to be able to attract talented people, we need to be able to offer benefits that other employers are offering.” Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed the legislation in September 2009. It redefines “dependent” in the context of benefits for state workers. The change excludes coverage for domestic partners, including heterosexual partners, children of domestic partners, disabled adult dependents, and full time students over 22 who are claimed as dependents. At the time Brewer signed the new law, approximately 40 same-sex and 130 opposite-sex partners of employees at Arizona State University had health insurance through the state coverage, according to the Arizona Daily Star. Matt Heinz, a state Representative (D) a physician at Tucson Medical Center told the Daily Wildcat, “It just seems like the absolute wrong time to do this kind of change, it’s the wrong change to make.” He continued, “It’s extremely short – sighted, it hurts our public sector, it hurts our universities, it hurts us all across the board. We continue to walk backward. Actually, we’re kind of sprinting backwards.” Several other pieces of legislation signed by Brewer have incited controversy over the past few months. Most recently, Brewer signed a bill in May that bans ethnic studies classes in the state’s public schools. The new law (see PDF) bans classes that “promote the overthrow of the United States government,” “promote resentment toward a race or class of people,” “are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group,” or “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.” In Tucson alone, where the school district is 56 percent Hispanic, there are approximately 1,500 high school students enrolled in ethnic studies classes. Brewer also signed a nationally controversial immigration law in April that allows law enforcement officials in Arizona to request proof of legal immigration, residency, or citizenship of anyone they suspect might be an illegal immigrant. At least five lawsuits have been filed challenging the constitutionality of the new immigration law, which is scheduled to go into effect in July.

Sources:

Arizona Daily Star 6/6/10; Daily Wildcat 9/18/09; Feminist Daily Newswire 5/13/10, 5/18/10

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