​University extends spousal benefits to same-sex partners

McAuliffe calls for all state agencies to extend benefits after Supreme Court decision

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The University announced Tuesday same-sex spouses of all benefit-eligible faculty and staff will be allowed to enroll in the University Health Plan.

The decision comes after the Supreme Court decided Monday it would not hear several appeals to federal court decisions which found same-sex marriage bans — including Virginia's — unconstitutional.

The Court’s decision allowed same-sex couples in Virginia to obtain legal marriage licenses beginning Monday afternoon.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued an Executive Order Tuesday mandating all state agencies, including institutions of higher education, to expand all spousal benefits to same-sex partners.

“My administration will act quickly to continue to bring all of our policies and practices into compliance so that we can give married same-sex couples the full array of benefits they deserve,” he said in the Executive Order.

In the wake of the Supreme Court decision and McAuliffe’s order, Susan Carkeek, the University’s chief human resources officer, distributed a statement to all benefits-eligible staff and faculty regarding changes in policy.

“As a result of decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court and the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, same-sex spouses are now eligible for coverage through the U.Va. Health Plan,” she said in the email. “This also applies to same-sex marriages performed in other states. Children of same-sex spouses are eligible for coverage as step-children.”

University Health Plan benefits are now available for all couples, regardless of sex, effective on the first of the month following the marriage. For couples who have already obtained marriage licenses from other states, “this change in eligibility allows you to add your spouse immediately as a mid-year qualifying event with a Nov. 1 effective date,” Carkeek said.

Following a change last summer, an employee's spouse may only enroll in the University's Health Plan if he or she does not have access to an "affordable health coverage of minimum value through his or her employer," and this standard still applies to same-sex spouses, Carkeek said in the email.

Queer Student Union President Sarah Leser, a fourth-year College student, said she the Supreme Court's decision came at an excellent time.

“National Coming Out day is this weekend, so this ruling comes at a very exciting time for the LGBTQ community,” Leser said in an email. “For many, this decision highlights progress in the LGBTQ struggle for equality.”

Though the ruling is positive news for LGBTQ individuals, Leser said the University and the Charlottesville community still have progress to make.

“We must continue working for things like gender-neutral housing and an LGBTQ identifier question on the admissions application, and it is up to students to reach out to University officials to let them know these are issues we care about,” she said.

Leser hopes the Supreme Court’s decision will provide a springboard for further progress.

“In the broader community, marriage equality does not address issues such as trans rights, anti-discrimination, or LGBTQ homelessness,” she said.

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