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University of Rochester Changes Policy for Same-Sex Couples

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Rochester: University of Rochester Changes Policy for Same-Sex Couples
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After the Same-Sex Marriage Law took effect July 24, some are questioning if the road to equality is fair.

“It’s a terrific thing to treat all of your staff the same way,” said Bill Murphy, Communications Vice President, University of Rochester.

The day the law took effect, so did a policy at the University of Rochester. Same-sex partners who work for the university now have to be married by June 30 if they want to keep their partners’ benefits.

“The unfortunate side is there are a lot of families that will lose their health care benefits that have been relying on domestic partner benefits,” said Scott Fearing, program director for the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley.

He says the positive thing is the policy helps to recognize how important the institution of marriage is. However, he believes it’s not easy on gay couples.

“It’s sort of a rash decision in some ways,” said Fearing.

He says rash because same-sex marriage is not yet recognized federally and policies like this can be a hassle.

“For a gay couple that is legally married, New York State will not be taxing that income or the value of the health care plan, but the federal government will,” said Fearing.

Todd Plank, president of Equality Rochester, says he believes the policy gives same-sex couples and ultimatum to “get married or lose your benefits.”

But the U of R says the policy change is fair.

“For heterosexual couples, they had to be married to receive benefits. We didn’t see that as get married or else. So we don’t see this as get married or else,” said Murphy.

Murphy says the policy can be modified as the university takes into consideration fairness and impact.

“Same-sex couples are not in the same situation opposite-sex couples are in. They are not protected by federal law,” said Murphy.

He says the change is not about saving the university money. Out of the 25,000 employees, 84 receive same-sex benefits.

“It’s not a significant financial factor at all one way or the other,” said Murphy.

He says the overall goal is to be equal.
“What we do see this as saying is we really are going to try to treat everybody consistent,” said Murphy.

Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley

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