Reinstating domestic partner benefits for Arizona state employees was the top priority of the LGBTQ Coalition’s State of the Union event on Wednesday.
State Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, addressed a gathering of ASU faculty and student LGBTQ advocates about a state legislative bill passed in October that eliminated state employee benefits for domestic partners and their children.
“The law is morally bankrupt and disgusting,” Sinema said.
In 2008, former Gov. Janet Napolitano approved a rule in the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council that extended domestic partner benefits to state employees, Sinema said.
Lisa Pittari, student coordinator for LGBTQ, said the health benefits included covered all the bases.
“The benefits were all-encompassing, everything from dental to mental health,” she said.
After Napolitano left office, the state Legislature passed legislation to remove domestic partner benefits as a cost-saving measure.
“My colleagues who supported the elimination of these benefits said it was a policy issue,” Sinema said.
The law approved in October was set to take action immediately, but Sinema said the benefits could not be eliminated in the middle of a contract year for employees already signed up for state employee health care.
The benefits will now end on Oct. 1, she said.
Pittari said the health care benefits extended to the children of state employees originally went up to age 26.
“Recent graduates having trouble finding a job in this economy could have been covered by their parents,” Pittari said, adding that tuition waivers were included in the benefits package.
Sinema said the new law stops coverage for children once they reach age 22.
“Adult disabled children also lose coverage at that time,” she added.
Pittari said this issue does not exclusively affect the gay community.
“It also includes the heterosexual population, because it affects all unmarried couples and children living together,” she said.
A reversal of the benefits removal is not likely, Sinema said.
“This Legislature and this governor will not fix this law,” she said.
Only through community outreach and awareness to leadership will the benefits be reinstated, Sinema said.
“Otherwise, we can wait until 2011 when the federal health care law comes into effect,” she said.
The event was coordinated by Ubiquity, an ASU faculty and staff gay advocacy group, in conjunction with the LGBTQ Coalition.
Ubiquity has been providing information about LGBTQ — Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning — issues to the ASU community for nearly 15 years.
Carol Comito, coordinator for Ubiquity, said the state of the union event was the first time the organization partnered with its corresponding student group.
“We exist to bring a voice to these people and to provide information,” she said. “These benefits not only affect ASU and all the other colleges, but any state employee.”
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