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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
January 28, 2005

Lawmaker may try to stop university partner benefits

Columbus--A persistent foe of marriage equality in the Ohio legislature now wants to force state universities to stop giving their employees domestic partner benefits.

State Sen. Jim Jordan of Urbana says state universities that continue to offer the benefits �have felt no change� and he�s considering language for the state budget to end that.

Jordan said he thinks the universities with the benefits are wrong under the Defense of Marriage Act that went into effect last May, and especially since the Issue 1 constitutional amendment passed in November.

That measure, banning same-sex marriage, civil unions and anything with the �design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage� is now Article 15, Section 11 of the Ohio Constitution.

�So in light of what has happened in the state over the past year, it seems to me that the universities should no longer extend the benefits,� said Jordan. �The people spoke loud and clear about this.�

Currently, five state universities, Cleveland State, Miami, Ohio University, Ohio State University and Youngstown State, offer benefits to the domestic partner of employees, saying it is necessary to recruit the best faculty and staff.

The universities, especially OSU, vigorously opposed both the DOMA legislation and the amendment, and have signaled since the election that they will offer the benefits until a court tells them they must stop.

Jordan, who supported the amendment and co-sponsored the DOMA bill in the Senate, said, �I think [the universities] are wrong.�

Jordan said that especially when Issue 1 passed, the majority of Ohioans denounced the benefits, and he is looking at possible ways to make the universities comply before courts intervene.

�They say they will go to court,� said Jordan, �and everyone expects that to happen. That�s the way things work.�

Jordan said he is consulting with attorneys to determine an approach to take.

One issue is existing employee contracts. Jordan said, �If there�s a contract, then the contract is in effect,� and will remain in effect.

But, according to Jordan, the legislature can stop the benefits once the existing contracts are no longer in effect.

�We�ll have to take a look at it,� said Jordan, �and the best plan is in the state budget.�

The five universities are funded by the legislature, and are governed by trustees and regents that are political appointees.

Jordan said he is not sure what he will do yet, or if it will be in the state budget that will be introduced next month. But he said he is sure that he will do something �to see that the constitution is complied with.�

The budget bill will be introduced in the legislature the week between February 8 and 15. The state constitution requires a balanced budget passed before the 2006 fiscal year begins on July 1.

 

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