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USU Attorney Says Amendment 3 Blocks Same-Sex Benefits

USU Attorney Says Amendment 3 Blocks Same-Sex Benefits

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OGDEN, Utah (AP) -- Utah State University's attorney has concluded that Amendment 3, banning gay marriage, likely prohibits extending the Logan school's medical benefits to same-sex couples.

Amendment 3 likely would override any potential same-sex benefit action by state institutions, said USU general counsel Craig Simper.

The same-sex benefits proposed by a committee of faculty members was discussed Monday at the university's faculty forum meeting.

The proposal was sent back to committee and will not be on the Faculty Senate agenda for formal discussion, said Janis Boettinger, Faculty Senate president.

"We're all state employees, and we have to uphold the state constitution," Boettinger said.

The issue could be discussed in the future, she said.

"There will be more study of the whole thing, but right now our hands are tied," Boettinger said.

Amendment 3 was passed by Utah voters in November and became effective Jan. 1.

It says that marriage consist only of the legal union between a man and a woman, and no other domestic union may be recognized as a marriage or given the same or substantially equal legal effect.

Supporters of the benefits proposal cite the 1993 university policy that states "University executives, administrators, faculty and supervisory staff will ensure that no employee or student is discriminated against/harassed because of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability or veteran's status."

"Policies are binding," said anthropology professor Pat Lambert, who helped create the current benefits proposal. "What does it mean when a university doesn't stand by its policy?" she said.

Lambert said she believes benefits are part of the employee's salary.

"If we're not offering equal compensation to all our employees, then we're not treating everyone equally," she said. "This is a lawsuit waiting to happen."

Offering same-sex benefits is a national trend, with many universities and Fortune 500 companies offering same-sex benefits, she said.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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