A History of Domestic Partner Benefits at Miami
Does Miami University provide benefits for domestic partners?
Yes! On June 25, 2004, the Miami University Board of Trustees declared by unanimous decision to extend domestic partner benefits to same sex couples beginning July 1, 2004. Family health benefits will be given to same sex domestic partners in a long-term relationship by filing an affidavit of domestic partnership through the benefits office. At this time, unmarried heterosexual couples will not be included.
A full summary is available at http://www.miamioh.edu/benefits/.
How did benefits for same-sex spouses happen?
It was a long and winding road… listed below are some key historical documentation before benefits were made available, and briefs from the President of the university and the Board of Trustees regarding DP Benefits.
Memo from 18 September 2000
Date: Mon, 18 Sep 2000 17:03:42 -0400
From: “Robin L. Parker”
Subject: Re: Civil Union Benefits?
To: Gary Hunter , “Robert B. Blair”
Rob and Gary,
I will try to respond to your question. As you probably already know, Miami has said that it will provide domestic partner benefits when the laws of the State of Ohio afford legal status to same gender unions (marriage, domestic partnerships or civil unions). To date this has not happened. I will attempt to elaborate further.
First, a state’s law does not have extra-territorial effect (e.g., although medical use of marijuana is permitted in some states it is not permitted in others). Therefore, a couple who joins in a civil union in Vermont has certain rights under Vermont law. That does not mean those same rights must be afforded to them by other states. Ohio has no law permitting same gender unions. Ohio’s marriage statute only permits unions between persons of opposite genders.
Second, under the United States Constitution , Article IV, Section 1, each state’s public acts, records, and judicial proceedings are entitled to full faith and credit in every other state. So for example if you are married in Kentucky, Ohio will recognize you as married (e.g., give full faith and credit to a Kentucky marriage)and if you reside in Ohio for at least 6 months preceding the filing of a complaint for divorce you can get divorced under Ohio law. The issue as I see it is, will Ohio recognize a Vermont civil union and if so, for what purposes.
Third, there is a public policy exception to the full faith and credit requirement of the Constitution. That is, if the law of another state violates your state’s public policy you do not have to give it full faith and credit. As I understand it there is a bill pending in the Ohio General Assembly (Senate Bill 240) which if passed would provide that it was against the public policy of Ohio to accept same gender unions.
So, the upshot of all this is I do not know whether Ohio will afford full faith and credit to Vermont civil unions or for what purposes. I suspect it will be some time before these issues are resolved as the law generally tends to be a very slow process. If the issues are resolved by litigation it can take several years to reach a final decision.
Memo from 27 October 2000
Dennis (sic) J. Walsh
Department of Management
Dear Professor Walsh:
I am responding to your request for an update on the status of domestic partner benefits. As you know, there have been ongoing conversations on this topic for several years, and we have compiled a large amount of information on the issue. Officially the position of the university continues to be that we cannot adopt a domestic partner benefit program in the absence of Ohio legislation which grants legal status to domestic partner unions. This is the same position held by my predecessor, Paul Risser.
Unofficially, we have continued to test the waters on this topic with other Ohio university presidents, elected officials, etc. The consensus of opinion among all groups is that it would be inadvisable to raise this topic formally. Even among persons who support the concept, there is continuing concern about creating a backlash against gay and lesbian rights generally. The fear is that the strong conservative movement in Ohio opposed to expanding gay rights would seize on any opportunity to mobilize support to their cause.
We are particularly concerned about Ohio Senate Bill 240, which would specifically prohibit domestic partner unions. It is my understanding that this “defense of marriage” bill is currently in committee. Our observers report that it is likely to remain there in the absence of a rallying movement to advance it. We don’t know the impact of the forthcoming election on this bill, but it seems clear that the General Assembly is likely to become even more conservative.
I personally support domestic partner benefits, as do the large majority of senior administrative officers at the university, and I would move quickly to recommend such benefits to the trustees as soon as state law recognizes domestic partner unions. However, in this absence of legislation, and in the current political environment, I believe that raising this topic would not only be futile but would have a strong adverse impact on the university.
James C. Garland
PRESIDENT GARLAND’S REPORT TO TRUSTEES — EXCERPT
JUNE 25, 2004 – Marcum Center Conference Room
Before finishing my report, I have an announcement I would like to make pertaining to an enhancement of our benefits package. Specifically, I would like to announce that, beginning July 1, the university will make health insurance benefits available to the domestic partners of benefit-eligible employees.
As you know, changes in benefits do not require board action. However, because of the sensitive nature of this issue, which has been discussed for many years on our campus, I know the Miami community would very much like to learn the trustees’ opinions. Obviously, I hope the board will consider affirming this action.
Let me therefore set the context by summarizing the long history of this topic on our campuses.
Fourteen years ago, the university convened a “Domestic Partner Benefits Task Force,” chaired by Professor Paul Anderson, to study the subject. The committee reported its findings to the community in November 1992. Among its other findings, the committee observed that the cost of such benefits would be very modest.
A year and a half later, in April 1994, the University Senate passed a resolution calling for domestic partner benefits. This resolution was then formally supported by the Faculty Assembly the following September.
During my eight years at Miami, members of the faculty and of advocacy groups have met with me numerous times to express their continuing support for domestic partner benefits.
In recent years, department chairs and deans have repeatedly expressed concerns to me that the lack of these benefits was harming our ability to recruit and retain faculty members.
On February 9 of this year, the University Senate passed a second resolution on the subject, by a vote of 45 to 1. This resolution stated in part that “The Miami University Senate reaffirms its long-standing position that benefits be awarded to domestic partners of Miami University employees.”
The resolution also correctly observed that the Ohio Defense of Marriage Act did not prohibit public universities from granting such benefits, and it further noted that the granting of benefits falls within the purview of boards of trustees.
In addition to the Senate resolution, in this year alone I have received resolutions from 17 academic departments and programs, all of them urging the university to act to offer domestic partner benefits.
During the past year, the Associated Student Government Senate endorsed domestic partner benefits this April by a 33 –2 vote, with 4 abstentions.
There are several reasons for this strong showing of support for domestic partner benefits by members of the university community. To many, the primary issue is one of fairness and equity of treatment of university employees.
On the other hand, university communities do not speak with one voice, and I want to acknowledge that there are also people here who oppose the idea. I know we have all received emails and letters from persons expressing this minority viewpoint. Obviously the broader topic of gay rights is a matter of significant public interest and debate, and that debate takes place on this campus, just as it does in the society at large.
However, setting aside personal beliefs, it is clear to me that domestic partner benefits has important practical implications for the university and, specifically, for our ability to recruit and retain talented employees.
And in this regard, I am not speaking just of the small number of faculty and staff who would take advantage of this benefit, but also of the much greater number who support the idea and for whom this issue is clearly an important matter of principle.
Obviously, this is one of those situations where we cannot please everybody. However, I am persuaded that the larger good will be served by our responding affirmatively to the requests from these many groups. I have no doubt that this modest change in our benefits package will be a tangible factor as we recruit new people to the campus in the coming years.
This is not an opinion held only by myself. The impact on recruitment has been has been widely discussed nationally, both by universities, and also by municipalities and businesses. It is a key reason why such benefits are today offered by more than 150 universities, including 75% of the top-ranked national universities.
Same-sex benefits are also offered by nearly 40% of Fortune 500 companies and nearly 60 % of Fortune 100 companies, and the numbers are growing each year. The concept has clearly moved into the mainstream, and I believe it is time the university responded to that reality.
Now let me tell you specifically what we have in mind. Our plan is to extend our family benefits package to the same-sex domestic partners of benefits-eligible faculty and staff members. Unmarried heterosexual couples will not be covered, because they always have the option of marriage.
To qualify for this benefit, employees will be required to file an “affidavit of domestic partnership,” which certifies that the employee is in a long-term, committed relationship with his or her domestic partner.
I know the trustees are always concerned about costs. Research by Mercer Human Resource Consulting shows that typically fewer than 0.5% of faculty and staff members use same-sex partner benefits if available. We estimate the costs to Miami of this benefit to be about to $50,000 to $100,000 per year. To place this range into context, Miami’s total benefits budget exceeds $50 million, and our health insurance alone costs about $22 million.
Let me finish by observing that this subject has not only been a longstanding campus issue, but also, for many on both sides, it has been a very emotional issue.
However, as I think about the debate that has taken place during my years at Miami, I must say that I am extraordinarily proud of the high level of campus discourse on this topic. Members of our community, no matter what their views, have invariably treated each other with respect and courtesy.
Furthermore, I want to add that the advocates for this benefit have also shown great patience. While their support has never wavered, they have clearly understood that the issue touches on complex and controversial social issues and that, ultimately, the larger well-being of the university had to be the dominant consideration.
Today, I believe that the well-being of the university is served by our granting this benefit, and it is for that reason that I am announcing this action.
Mr. Chairman, that concludes my report.
REMARKS BY BOARD CHAIR, FRED WALL
JUNE 25, 2004 – Marcum Center Conference Room
Dr. Garland, thank you for your report.
I want to speak to President Garland’s decision to implement domestic partner benefits. President Garland and I have had numerous conversations about this issue during my years on the board. In addition, I discussed this topic in individual conversations many times with my fellow trustees. I have also spoken to the chairs of some of the other Ohio universities on the subject.
As President Garland noted, domestic partner benefits have been debated for many years at Miami, in the University and Student senates, and in many academic departments and committees. Trustees have received numerous correspondences from individuals and departments on both sides of the issue. In fact, at our February meeting, the Trustees were addressed by two faculty members urging us to offer this benefit. My point is that over a long period of time, the Trustees have received information and advice from many sources concerning virtually all aspects of this issue.
Having given this issue much thought and deliberation, I have come to the conclusion that, in the current difficult hiring environment, extending domestic partner benefits is necessary to recruit and retain the very best faculty and staff possible. I therefore support President Garland’s decision, and I would like the Trustees to have an opportunity to show their support, as well.
I will entertain a motion that the Board of Trustees affirms the administrative decision to extend benefits to domestic partners for the purposes of strengthening the university and thereby enhancing its ability to recruit and retain members of the faculty and staff. Is there such a motion?
Is there a second to the motion? Is there any discussion?
All those in favor, say aye.
Those opposed, say no.
The motion is adopted.