Some University of Tennessee employees fight for domestic partnership benefits

11:27 PM, Nov 29, 2012   |    comments
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Dozens of University of Tennessee staffers are once again demanding equality on the issue of health and educational benefits for unmarried couples, also known as domestic partners.

UT chancellor Doctor Jimmy Cheek recently declined to provide those benefits to unmarried couples in order to stay consistent with the public policy of the state.

"Some people are denied those exact same benefits, even though they do the same job," said Karly Safar, a secretary at the Student Counseling Center.

Safar has had a domestic partnership with her boyfriend for the last year, and represents a growing number of opposite-sex partnerships in the U.S.

In 2000, nearly 5 million straight couples living together were not married. According to the Census, that jumped in the past decade, by more than a third -- all the more reason the state university should recognize domestic partnerships with benefits, according to associate professor Donna Braquet.

"For whatever reason you chose not to get married or may not be able to get married, these benefits should be offered -- equal access," Braquet said.

At a meeting Thursday night, several staffers gathered to discuss what to do next to get domestic partnership benefits on the UT campus.

Braquet discussed how several state schools, including recently the University of Georgia (courtesy WXIA-TV), have voted for those benefits.

That equality is all Safar asks for on the Knoxville campus too.

"We will be effective in organizing people that support this," she said.

At the meeting, several staffers discussed personal stories of how the lack of benefits will not help the university retain faculty. They expect more meetings about the issue to come forth in the coming weeks and months.

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