University of Montana to Provide Benefits to Same-Sex Partners

March 21, 2005 ( - The Montana State Board of Regents has voted to extend health benefits to same-sex partners of state university employees.

After a committee of the Regents recommended that the Board vote to approve the measure extending benefits, the whole Board voted unanimously on Friday in support, according to the Billings Gazette. The state Supreme Court had struck down the Board’s previous policy of denying such benefits to same-sex couples while giving them to heterosexual ones.

Under the new policy, group health insurance coverage can now be extended to one adult dependent at a cost of $160 a month in premiums, which are paid by the employee. Although a complete criterion of who is eligible has not been created, Commissioner of Higher Education Sheila Stearns has been asked to complete this, according to the Gazette.

There has been some opposition to the move, with many people claiming that the people of the state, when they voted in November to define marriage as a union of persons of the opposite sex, made it clear that they did not support such action.

The state Supreme Court, however, ruled 4-3 in favor of two lesbian university employees who claimed their partners were illegally denied group health benefits.