Letter from President Mary Sue Coleman regarding same-sex domestic partner benefits
March 22, 2005
I am writing to put in context for you recent developments about our ability to offer same-sex domestic partner benefits.
I know that the passage of Proposal 2 (now part of the constitution) in Michigan has caused a great deal of anxiety in our community about whether the University will be able to continue to support our employees by offering benefits to same-sex domestic partners. Our position on this issue has been consistent and clear. As an employer, we offer benefits to our employees and their dependents in order to create a supportive and welcoming environment that allows us to recruit and retain the very best faculty and staff. Many employees have told us over the years that the availability of these benefits has been a significant factor in their decision to locate and to remain at the University. We do not believe the state's definition of marriage is relevant in any way to our decision about what benefits to offer our employees and their dependents, and we do not intend to make any changes to our benefits based on it.
On Monday, a lawsuit was filed asking a state court to declare that Prop 2 does not affect a public employer’s ability to offer partner benefits. We agree with this position and believe that the law permits the University to design our own benefit policies.
As a University, we believe deeply that all members of our community should be respected and valued, and that discrimination based upon any form of prejudice is wrong. We have worked over the years to live up to these values and to nurture an environment that is safe, welcoming and inclusive for all who choose to join our community. We will vigorously defend our ability to offer these benefits; and, we will continue to pay attention to issues that may affect the environment we have worked so hard to create.
If you have specific questions about your or your dependents' eligibility for benefits, please visit the Benefits Office website or contact a benefits representative at the HR/Payroll Service Center by calling (734) 615-2000. A booklet about same-sex domestic partner benefits at U-M also is available for download (PDF format).
President Mary Sue Coleman
Postscript: After discontinuing its benefits to same-sex domestic partners to comply with Michigan state law, in January 2008 the University created the Other Qualified Adult (OQA) status for benefits eligibility, which was updated in January 2009. To be eligible for University benefits, same sex domestic partners must meet the eligibility criteria for OQA status. For more information, see Employee Benefits on the website for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Faculty and Staff.