email us movie listings personals Out on the Town



Same-sex benefits close to approval by LCC trustees

By Daniel Sturm

Lansing Community College appears set to adopt same-sex domestic partner health benefits as early as next week, making it the second of 31 Michigan community colleges to do so.

LCC maintenance workers approved a new health-care benefits package Tuesday that includes the benefits. Members of the five other unionized bargaining units have voted on the same package, but they were not expected to report the results to LCC till today.
The trustees are expected to approve the agreements when they meet Oct. 21. If approved by all parties, the benefits would cover 460 full-time workers. Employees who could document a committed relationship would be eligible.

If approved, LCC would join Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor as the only community colleges in Michigan to have domestic-partner benefits. Eight four-year schools, including MSU, have also adopted DP benefits.

LCC spokeswoman Ruth Hohl Borger said that once the benefits are approved they will not be difficult to implement “because there are many models out there to model ours after.”
Hohl Borger said same-sex benefits “allows us to be a competitive and attractive, good quality employer. It’s something that our competitive institutions, MSU and General Motors, have done. Thus, it’s not something in which we’re cutting edge on.”

Tim Zellar, LCC’s director for labor relations, said that LCC has not yet projected what the benefits would cost.

Six of LCC’s seven trustees said they favored domestic-partner benefits. Trustee Todd Heywood said the board recently decided in a closed session to add the benefits to the health care package. “You can’t operate any business today without offering benefits to everybody,” Heywood said. He added that he was not disappointed that the benefits wouldn’t apply to heterosexual unmarried partners. “They have the ability to get married,” which isn’t an option for same-sex couples.

In addition to Heywood, board chairman Brian Jeffries, Olga Holden, Kathy Pelleran, Mark Canady and Thomas Rasmusson confirmed they would support the proposal. Board member David Patterson couldn’t be reached for comment.

Canady earlier had criticized the board for acting “grossly irresponsible.” He said that because the trade unions had never requested same-sex partner benefits, it seemed as if the board was willing to just give away taxpayer money “without negotiating any type of counter balance.” He also said he would have preferred that the trustees had had a public vote on offering the benefits to the unions.

Ingham County Commissioner Chris Swope applauded LCC’s decision, saying it would “potentially influence the attitude of other public entities. It may also attract unions to get interested.”

The first news of the benefits decision came out at a candidates’ session for members of the gay community at Club Parside in downtown Lansing on Oct. 9, when Jeffries revealed what was in the works.

The Lansing Association for Human Rights Political Action Committee has rated Jeffries “somewhat positive” on gay rights issues. It has rated his Pelleran, his opponent, higher as “positive.”

Swope, who is treasurer of LAHR, said Jeffries’ announcement would not affect his rating. “This year was the first time Brian Jeffries ever responded to our questionnaire,” Swope said. “It kind of tells us that he didn’t mind being rated negatively,” said Swope. LAHR-PAC rated Jeffries lower when he served on the Ingham County Commission 1987 to 1992.

Three trustees – Heywood, Holden and Rasmusson – e-mailed LAHR that they consider Jeffries a “true friend” of the gay community and criticized Pelleran as “weak on the issue of (lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender) people on the campus of LCC.”

Pelleran said she has always supported same-sex partner benefits.

She said she was surprised by Jeffries’ announcement since the trustees had discussed the issue in closed session only and hadn’t received the report of its negotiating team. She criticized Jeffries for making the news public “in a venue that promotes himself rather than the college and rather than the community. I find it offensive in a campaign year.”

Care to respond? Send letters to View our Letters policy.





©Copyright City Pulse