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University extends benefits to domestic partners

The University will extend its benefits package to include same-sex domestic partners of its employees beginning Jan. 1, 2000.

The move is in response to increased competition for higher education faculty and staff, Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resource Services Darlene Lewis said, noting that nearly all of the University’s peer institutions have adopted such a policy.

“The University sees this as an enhancement of our employee benefits package,” Lewis said. “It is intended to help us to continue to recruit and retain talented faculty and staff.”

The policy gives to same-sex domestic partners and their dependent children the same benefits coverage that is currently extended to the spouse and dependent children of all Vanderbilt employees. These benefits include: health, dental, life and accident insurance coverage; consideration in leave and other policies that include family, education assistance benefits; family activities at the University’s recreation facilities; access to the University’s libraries and eligibility for enrollment in the Vanderbilt Child Care Center. In some cases, the benefits will be taxable.


“The University sees this as an enhancement of our employee benefits package. It is intended to help us to continue to recruit and retain talented faculty and staff.”

—Darlene Lewis, Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resource Services


The University has investigated the experience of other institutions that have adopted a same-sex domestic partner policy and has found that the policy has had a minimal financial impact on the institutions, Lewis said.

Under the Domestic Partner Benefit Policy, an eligible employee who seeks benefits for a domestic partner must establish they are of the same sex, not related by blood, at least 21 years of age, not legally married to anyone or in another domestic partnership, and are “currently in a committed relationship of six months’ or more duration and reside in a common household sharing joint responsibility for the household.”

Before seeking benefits for a domestic partner or a dependent of a domestic partner, an employee must complete and register a “statement of domestic partnership” with the Office of the Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resource Services. If the employee and domestic partner end their relationship, they must file within 30 days a “statement of termination of domestic partnership” and notify the associate vice chancellor. A 12-month waiting period must elapse before a staff or faculty member can enroll a new domestic partner.

The policy applies only to same-sex domestic partners because opposite-sex couples have the opportunity to marry and, therefore, become eligible for benefits. However, same-sex partners don’t have that choice and have no way to qualify for benefits without this policy, Lewis said.