Efforts to secure domestic partner benefits continue

Jan. 30, 2008

by John Lucas

Although a provision authorizing domestic partner benefits wasn’t included in last year’s final state budget, campus efforts to move the issue forward continue unabated.

A committee of faculty and staff continues to meet with legislative leadership, individual members of the legislature, UW System and Fair Wisconsin in hopes of making fresh progress.

Among the approaches being considered are standalone legislation or possible action through the administrative rule process.

Provost Patrick Farrell and Chancellor John Wiley have consistently argued that not being able to offer benefits puts UW–Madison at a competitive disadvantage with peer institutions. UW–Madison is the only Big Ten university, and one of only two universities among statutorily set peer research institutions, that does not offer domestic partner benefits.

Current state law does not allow domestic partner benefits to be offered to state employees.

For health insurance purposes, the Department of Employee Trust Funds (ETF) rules define a dependent as an employee’s spouse and an employee’s unmarried child who is dependent upon the employee or the employee’s former spouse for at least 50 percent of support and maintenance.

Last year, in addition to pursuing inclusion of benefits in the state budget process, UW–Madison explored numerous alternate routes, both publicly and privately, to achieve the same effect. Those discussions are continuing.

“I feel strongly that this is an issue of equity that we will continue to pursue,” says Laurie Beth Clark, vice provost for faculty and staff programs and campus coordinator on the issue. “I’m optimistic that we will one day secure these benefits for our faculty and staff.”

For faculty and staff interested in expressing an opinion on the domestic partner benefits issue, individual contact with members of the legislature or governor’s office is encouraged, provided that it takes place on personal time, using nonuniversity resources.

For additional information, contact UW–Madison state relations at 263-5510 or DPbenefits@provost.wisc.edu.