Janesville School Board approves insurance for domestic partners

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Frank Schultz
Tuesday, July 9, 2013

JANESVILLE—Janesville public school employees who are not married will be able to extend their health insurance to their domestic partners.

The Janesville School Board voted 6-3 to make the change after lengthy and intense debate that included both moral objections and concerns about costs.

The administration estimated the change could cost an extra $109,000 to $115,000 in the coming year. That estimate was based on 10 employees applying for the benefit.

Officials said fewer than 10 employees with domestic partners are registered with the district for purposes of the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Some school board members, however, asked if the administration knows how many employees would add children to their families in the coming year, or how many would get married or divorced.

Those changes could alter costs to the health plan noted board member Deborah Schilling, adding that the actual cost of the health plan is impossible to know in advance.

Board member Scott Feldt proposed extending the benefits only to same-sex domestic partners because, he said, opposite-sex partners had the option of getting married, while state law does not allow same-sex marriages.

Feldt's proposal failed on a 4-5 vote.

Board member Bill Sodemann moved that the matter be referred to committee, which would consider using rules that the city of Janesville uses to qualify domestic partners for health insurance.

The city requires that domestic partner have lived together for 18 months and that once partners split up, the employee must wait 18 months before applying for benefits for a new partner.

Sodemann's idea failed on a 4-5 vote.

Sodemann also moved that domestic partners pay a 20 percent premium share, versus 10 percent for other employees, to help cover costs and make the partner consider other insurance options. That idea died for lack of a second.

Sodemann said his objection is a moral one. But Scripture aside, he said, many studies show that children do better with two parents who are a man and a woman.

At least one study does not agree with that view. A recent Australian study, reported in the Huffington Post, found children brought up by gay couples are healthier and get along better with their families.

“We keep tearing apart our fabric, that the family is the cornerstone of society,” Sodemann said.

Sodemann was joined by Feldt and Greg Ardrey in opposing the change.

Board member David DiStefano, who proposed the change, said it was about treating employees equally and judging them only on their performance.

DiStefano likened it to the change in attitudes about equal pay for equal work among men and women.

Years ago, society largely accepted that men should be paid more, but no one on the board would take that position today, DiStefano said.

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