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UGA Domestic Partner Benefits Approved

Doogie Howser and his fiancee would like their benefits, please.

Nearly a year after University of Georgia faculty and staff started pressing for benefits for unmarried employees’ domestic partners, University System Chancellor Hank Huckaby has given UGA President Michael Adams the go-ahead to start offering some domestic partner benefits.

Adams said in a written statement:

The guidance from Chancellor Huckaby clearly allows us to move forward with the plan to provide soft benefits to registered domestic partners of the university’s benefits-eligible employees.  These benefits, paid for entirely by the employees and without use of state funds, will be an important addition to the benefits offerings available to UGA employees.

Given the guidance on providing a health care benefits package for domestic partners of university employees, it is less clear that we could do so in a way that would involve no state funds at all.  This matter will, unfortunately, require further study.

Soft benefits include life, dental and accidental death insurance, which are entirely paid for by employees. Health insurance is subsidized by taxpayers, so providing it to domestic partners could run afoul of Georgia’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions. Allowing domestic partners to sign on to UGA’s health insurance plan would cost an estimated $270,000.

Faculty and staff members’ and students’ domestic partners can already get a UGACard, which allows them access to the facilities like the University Health Center, the Ramsey Center, student housing and Legion Pool if they and their partners fill out an affadavit.

Other Georgia public universities, including Kennesaw State, Georgia Tech and Georgia State, already offer soft benefits to domestic partners. And many of UGA’s peer and aspirational universities, such as Florida, offer hard benefits.