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State drops domestic-partner benefits

Domestic partners are being eliminated from state employee benefits just a year after they were added to the benefits plan.

A bill signed by Gov. Jan Brewer redefined a "dependent," canceling the rule change made by Gov. Janet Napolitano that allowed domestic partners to receive benefits.

Also eliminated are children of domestic partners, full-time students ages 23-24 and disabled adult dependents. The legislation is in legal review.

About 800 state employees are affected, according to the state's administration department.

UA President Robert Shelton planned to issue a memo to college employees today alerting them to the change in benefits.

"We need to come up with a way this university can aid these individuals in buying separate coverage," Shelton said at a staff meeting Tuesday. "Because they're employees here, they qualify for benefits here, they should just like all of us do — and in this case they've been eliminated through a bill that I'm tempted to characterize but will restrain myself from certain adjectives."

The legal review will determine when the benefits will change, said Alan Ecker, spokesman for the state's Department of Administration.

It costs the state $3 million to cover domestic partners and $625 million for other employees and their dependents, Ecker said.

Liz Sawyer, a UA staff member, said the exclusion is "deplorable and it's tragic."

Sawyer is a spokeswoman for OUTReach, a staff group that lobbies for domestic-partner benefits at UA.

Last year 170 UA employees signed up for domestic-partner benefits, she said. Forty were same-sex couples and the remainder were unmarried, opposite-sex couples, she said.

Shelton's support for finding alternative coverage when benefits are taken away has been "tremendous," Sawyer said.

"It's a real step backwards for this university in terms of being able to compete for the best people," Shelton said. "I don't know of any other of our competitive universities that are put in this situation. It's extremely worrisome."

Related blog: Supporters of domestic-partner benefits lash out at Brewer

Contact reporter Becky Pallack at or 807-8012.

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