Saturday, October 19, 2002

State same-sex partners
get benefits

Associated Press

Same-sex partners of state and city-county employees will be eligible for health benefits beginning next July 1, the board of the Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund has decided.

At that time, all public employees receiving health benefits from the Hawaii Public Employees Health Fund or their respective unions will be placed in a single group to be insured through the trust.

Union officials had pushed for the extension of benefits to same-sex partners.

"If we can do it, then we should do it. I don't see any problem with that," said board member Willard Miyake of the Hawaii Government Employees Association.

"Government employees are entitled to certain benefits, regardless of their sexual orientation or regardless of their marital status," labor union attorney Charles Khim said outside the board meeting at the state Capitol Thursday. "You know, this is the 21st century."

However, Deputy State Attorney General Brian Aburano warned the board that it may be exceeding its authority by extending coverage.

The only government union now offering domestic partner coverage to its members is the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly. About a dozen same-sex partners are enrolled.

"It costs almost nothing," Tom Ramsey of the faculty union said. "In fact, pregnancy costs a lot more. And so when they compare it to covering married couples, covering domestic partners is not a problem."

Gov. Ben Cayetano appointed the 10-member board to design and approve new health benefit plans to help control the spiraling cost of health benefits for 83,000 active and retired state and city-county employees.

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