Starting in September, employees of the Salt Lake City School District will be able to share their health insurance with a domestic partner, including a same-sex one. But the district is not the first in Utah to offer inclusive benefits to gay and lesbian employees.
In January, Park City School District extended health-insurance benefits to same-sex partners of employees when it enacted a policy that forbids discrimination in schools based on a person's sexual orientation.
"Everybody should be treated equally," Moe Hickey, president of the Park City school board, said Wednesday. "If they are an employee of ours, we consider them part of our district, part of our family."
In Salt Lake District, Angie Elegante, a teacher at Northwest Middle, is "thrilled" that she may finally be able to provide health insurance to her partner of 12 years, a filmmaker with three part-time jobs none of which offers insurance. Her partner also has been unable to buy health insurance because she is a breast cancer survivor.
"It would mean peace of mind for both of us," Elegante said. "We're so grateful to the Board of Education."
The school district is switching insurance providers, picking SelectHealth in part because the company offered domestic-partner coverage without increasing the current cost of premiums, either to the district or employees. Employees will be receiving information in the next few days about how to enroll a domestic partner. They will pay the same rate as if they were enrolling a spouse, said district spokesman Jason Olsen.
"We look forward to offering this benefit for our employees," Superintendent McKell Withers said in a statement.
Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County and Park City governments offer similar benefits to their employees. Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County allow employees who do not share insurance with a spouse to insure an "adult designee," which can be any financially dependent household member, such as an aging parent.
Brandie Balken, executive director of Equality Utah, called Salt Lake City School District's decision "remarkable."
"It's a demonstration on the part of the district that all teachers are valued equally," she said. "It also will encourage longer retention of qualified and invested employees."
Salt Lake City district has 3,000 employees, and Park City has nearly 700.