New AFSCME Contract Could Include DP Benefits

Fri. June 18, 2004 12:00 AM

Springfield, IL - If members of the state's largest union ratify a new contract, Illinois will join seven other states in extending health insurance benefits to state employees' gay and lesbian partners.

However, the state would still not provide benefits to unmarried heterosexual couples living together.

According to a summary of the tentative agreement distributed to AFSCME members, state employees could begin enrolling their same-sex partners for health, dental and vision benefits in the third year of the four-year contract.

Opponents of that change argued the state could not afford to pay for more benefits and that the majority of taxpayers would not support it.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich said in February that he supports offering benefits to same-sex domestic partners. The union and the Blagojevich administration refused to discuss specifics of the contract with the media until it is ratified.

The University of Illinois, City of Chicago and Cook County already offer benefits to employees' same-sex partners. University employees must submit several forms of proof that they are in a committed same-sex relationship, such as evidence of a shared checking account. In Chicago, same-sex couples must live together for a year and fill out paperwork to receive benefits.

California, Connecticut, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington state already offer health benefits to employees' domestic partners.

AFSCME members throughout Illinois will be voting on the contract at various sites until the end of the month.