Centre, Berea College ahead of curve on 'domestic' partners

August 03, 2003|EMILY BURTON

Long before the recent controversy over same-sex marriages, two small Kentucky institutions, including Danville's Centre College, had put it behind them.

Centre and Berea College are providing benefits for the "domestic" partners of employees, not distinguishing sexual preference. And though same-sex marriages are currently illegal, both schools are already positioned to comply if the law changes and spouses of homosexuals become eligible for benefits.

The issue was brought to the forefront in June when the United States Supreme Court ruled a Texas sodomy law unconstitutional, setting off debates across the country and the world.

Central Kentucky was no exception.

State Representative Lonnie Napier, R-Lancaster, announced a proposed state resolution to ask Congress for a Constitutional amendment that would legalize marriage only between a man and woman. His proposal drew reaction from both sides in letters to the editor across the region.


Then President Bush announced his intent to propose similar legislation.

The Vatican has since denounced same-sex marriages.

Centre began offering benefits two years ago

Two years ago, Centre College began offering domestic partner benefits to employees. The extended insurance followed Centre's decision to change its equal employment opportunities statement to include a sexual orientation clause.

"The college made the decision in 2001, or even 2000, that we would change our EEO statement to include sexual orientation," said Kay Drake, Centre College director of human resources and administrative services. "[Offering benefits] was just a logical progression."

Centre's employee benefits led the way for other universities to open the doors to newly emerging groups of employees, though the larger Kentucky universities have approached the question of domestic partner benefits with caution.

The University of Kentucky has yet to approve domestic partner benefits, though the motion has been recommended by two different UK committees.

"A couple of the university committees have recommended to implement it in the next five years, but it's under review," said Mary Margaret Colliver, Director of UK public relations.

Colliver said that previous reports saying UK offered pet insurance but not domestic partner benefits had been misconstrued. While employees have the option to buy pet insurance, domestic partner benefits would be paid for by the university, and the university wants to know exactly what it will cost.

The University of Louisville is also considering looking into offering employees domestic partner benefits, but no official reviews have been scheduled.

"We have on the table a list of benefits we might explore, and that is one of them," said Rae Goldsmith, associate vice president for communications and marketing.

Trustees of Berea College approved the extended benefits in May 2002, which are not limited by type of partnership or gender, though there are some regulations as to what a domestic partnership is.

"There was a great deal of discussion, but the motion was passed without audible dissent," said Tim Gordon, director of public relations at Berea. "This was something that had been asked for by employees and was brought to the administrative committee to be considered by the trustees."

Central Kentucky News Articles