Worried About A Lawsuit From Hetero Couples, Purdue Nixing Same-sex Benefits

Dec 18, 2015

Purdue has offered same-sex benefits since 2002 -- when gay marriage was illegal. Now that the law has changed nationally, Purdue officials say they're responding to the national landscape.
Credit Purdue University

9:30 a.m. Saturday Update:

Purdue's Board of Trustees has now officially voted for this policy change on the second day of its regularly-scheduled December meeting. The policy change takes effect on Jan. 1, 2017, giving unmarried same-sex couples using the school's benefits just more than a year to make other plans.

Earlier:

Purdue’s Board of Trustees is set to sign off on the removal of same-sex partner benefits from the school’s offerings.

Purdue began offering same-sex partner benefits in 2002, before marriage rights were expanded in Indiana and across the country.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that marriage was legal for everyone, everywhere, the school’s lawyers worried that if they offered benefits to unmarried same-sex partners, but not unmarried opposite-sex partners, they could be sued for discrimination by the latter.

Purdue Human Resources Vice President Trent Klingerman says the school could have just extended the benefits to all unmarried couples, but hasn’t run the numbers yet to know what that would cost.

“The benefits team at Purdue has begun to look at the cost and value of offering those benefits and we will study that as we do every year as we make our rate and plan presentation to the Board,” Klingerman says.

But not offering the benefits to all could open Purdue to criticism it’s pushing people to marry, especially in an age where fewer couples are getting hitched.

“I don’t know whether or not you’re accurate about the declining marital rate – we haven’t studied that," Klingerman says. "What’s going to be important to us is the cost.”

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report Indiana’s marriage rate has fallen by more than a quarter over the last 25 years.