UF requirement for partner benefits: You must have sex

Published: Friday, January 20, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 19, 2006 at 11:27 p.m.
University of Florida employees have to pledge that they're having sex with their domestic partners before qualifying for benefits under a new health care plan at the university.
The partners of homosexual and heterosexual employees are eligible for coverage under UF's plan, which will take effect in February. The enrollment process began this month, and some employees have expressed concern about an affidavit that requires a pledge of sexual activity.
Fielding questions about the pledge at a Faculty Senate meeting Thursday, UF's vice president of human resources said he's heard concerns about the affidavit, though overall feedback about the plan has been positive.
"I would say 95 percent of the affidavit is fine," Kyle Cavanaugh said in an interview after the meeting.
In addition to declaring joint financial obligations, prospective enrollees must "have been in a non-platonic relationship for the preceding 12 months," according to the affidavit.
Marylou Behnke, a UF senator, told Cavanaugh she found the requirement "offensive."
As a member of the Senate, representing faculty in UF's College of Medicine, Behnke said she was compelled to learn more about UF's plan. She said she was taken aback to find that employees would be required to swear to prior sexual activity, a standard not applied to married couples covered by UF's primary health care plan.
"Are you going to police it?" Behnke asked Cavanaugh.
Cavanaugh said he had no plans to personally enforce the sex pledge. The "non-platonic" clause is "increasingly standard" in domestic partnership plans, Cavanaugh said. The clause is one of several methods used to legally ensure that an employer is only obligated to cover employees in a committed relationship, not longtime roommates.
Shands HealthCare, which began offering domestic partnership benefits this month, also requires that employees declare a "non-platonic" relationship. Shands is an affiliate of UF, supporting the university's education and research efforts, but it is a private nonprofit entity with an independent health care plan. Like UF, Shands chose to offer domestic partnership benefits in order to stay competitive, said Kim Rose, Shands spokeswoman. Rose said she did not know whether Shands' Board of Directors, which approved the plan, was influenced by UF's decision to offer domestic benefits.
Concerns about the "non-platonic" clause may lead UF to change the language of the affidavit, Cavanaugh said.
"I would anticipate we would take a hard look at trying to modify it," he said.
Any modifications to the plan won't likely be made in the first enrollment cycle, which ends Jan. 30, Cavanaugh said. But by October, when employees enroll for benefits again, there may be changes to the affidavit, he said.
Between five and 10 people have enrolled in the plan already, Cavanaugh said, and more than 100 have attended orientations to learn about the benefits. UF officials anticipate that as many as 120 people will enroll in the plan, which will cost the university about $1 million a year.
Confidentiality is promised to UF employees enrolled in any health care plan, but Behnke said she had concerns about whether the affidavit might lead to discrimination if it ended up in the wrong hands. Pledging an active homosexual relationship, as the affidavit requires for gay couples, could potentially bar an individual from participation in organizations like the Boy Scouts or the military, Behnke said.
Kim Tanzer, chair of the Faculty Senate, said she could understand why some faculty might view the affidavit as invasive.
"I can see (Behnke's) point," she said. "If you ask married folks if they're in a platonic relationship, that's a personal question."
Jack Stripling can be reached at 374-5064 or Jack.Stripling@ gvillesun.com.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top