Springfield Board of Education Approves Benefits for Same-Sex Couples
The Springfield School Board has voted to extend healthcare benefits to married, same-sex couples. The amendment to the district health plan changes the definition of spouse to include same-sex spouses married in a state that legally recognizes same-sex marriage.
The decision was unanimous, 7-0.
Chief Human Resources Officer Parker McKenna told the board that the proposal will help ensure competitiveness and meet the needs of employees, some of whom have requested the change. He also cited recent court rulings on gay marriage in Missouri, as well as the city’s amended non-discrimination ordinance.
“It’s also worth noting that the premium associated with the cost of that same-sex spouse would be treated just as our opposite-sex spouses, which is solely at the cost of the participant, so the district does not fund any portion of that premium,” McKenna said.
Board member Annie Busch said she has no trouble supporting the amendment.
“I also think that that’s the direction things are moving and I believe it’s the right thing to do,” said Busch.
One citizen spoke against the amendment during the public comment section of Tuesday’s meeting. Dan Cumming said the school board was too quick to react to recent court rulings on gay marriage in Missouri, which are both being appealed.
"I don't understand why the push is. These rulings were just made, what, a week and a half ago and that was the impetus for making that change in definition? What is the rationale?" he said.
Board member Gerry Lee expressed some concern with the amendment, noting that given a lack of legal direction the board may be “overextending our responsibility and authority to do some of this.” He did say he did feel comfortable with the amendment language referring same-sex spouses married in states where it’s legal to do so.
Andy Hosmer noted it’s not the first time the court has left the district with no guidance; and Denise Frederick said there are other local employers that offer similar benefits.
It is not immediately clear how many additional employees will take part in the amended plan. The district’s self-insured health plan, with more than 6,000 current participants, is the largest in Springfield.
The amendment expanding the definition of “spouse” in the district’s healthcare plan takes effect December 1st.