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LOGAN - After a nine-month hiatus, a proposal to offer domestic partners the same benefits enjoyed by married employees is back on at the Utah State University campus.
A professor - Barry Franklin of the College of Education and Human Services - has circulated a petition and won the right to raise the issue Monday before the USU Faculty Forum. And the Faculty Senate, on Dec. 5, could vote on whether it wants to further discuss the controversial issue.
The "Domestic Partners Benefit" proposal was dropped at the northern Utah university in March after USU legal counsel Craig Simper informed employees that Utah's Amendment 3, approved by popular vote in November 2004, defines marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman.
"No other domestic union may be recognized as a marriage or given the same or substantially equal legal effect," Simper said earlier this year, adding that the university wasn't interested in fighting this particular battle.
"Utah State University does not want to be the test case and does not intend to be the test case," Simper said in March.
The University of Utah in Salt Lake City offers health insurance to employees' domestic partners, but the employee is required to bear the full cost of that insurance for the partner.
"I'm not sure everyone who signed the petition is in favor of domestic-partner benefits," Franklin said Friday, "but apparently they agree that the discussion should take place."
But not everyone is ready to talk about the issue.
On Friday afternoon Derek Mason, chairman of the USU Faculty Senate, said he had no comment, and Stan Albrecht, who became USU's president in January, would only respond through spokesman John DeVilbiss, who said:
"It's possible that [the Senate] won't even vote to discuss it. The president respects the process and wants to make sure the Faculty Senate has a chance to weigh in before he does."
While the policy may have its critics, Franklin said the time has come for the university to provide the same benefits for all couples - especially gay and lesbian employees.
"It's good business in terms of recruiting. We want to have the best faculty we can have," Franklin said. "We should discuss it and talk about it as matter of justice and good business."