Tennessee: University says it cannot offer health insurance benefits to unmarried gay couples

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Administrators at the University of Tennessee (UT) have announced that they will not offer health insurance benefits to partners of gay employees.

A letter from the University Chancellor, Jimmy Cheek, and Agriculture Chancellor, Larry Arrington, read out to faculty members on Monday, said that they could not offer the same benefits to unmarried same-sex couples for fear of violating state laws.

Equal marriage is currently not legal in the state of Tennessee, so for same-sex employees of UT, there is currently no way to take advantage of the benefits.

The letter said: “We hope you understand that in our positions as leaders of an agency of the State of Tennessee, it is incumbent upon us to act consistently with the public policy of our state,” reported SFGate.

Members of the faculty group, who had requested the letter as a response to their proposal back in April, deemed the response “appalling” and were not happy with the way the situation had been handled.

Wanda Costen, an associate professor in the Department of Retail said: “This seemed to be a three-sentence response, and it’s a very sensitive issue, and I’d like to know more in-depth some background on this,” she said, “This is not one I’m willing to let go lightly.”

The disgruntled faculty members also questioned which laws would be broken by offering the same benefits to same-sex couples.

The faculty group have said that they will discuss, and respond accordingly later in the month.

Back in August, an employee at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee was investigated after she was seen throwing away dozens of copies of a local gay newspaper from a communal area.