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Marquette University extends benefits to same-sex partners.

MILWAUKEE * Marquette University will extend health benefits to same-sex domestic partners starting next year.

The extension is contingent upon domestic partners registering their status with the Milwaukee County clerk's office, which started registering same-sex couples as domestic partners last year.

University spokeswoman Kate Venne said that 13 other Jesuit colleges and universities offer health benefits to same-sex partners. Marquette's package will include medical, dental and vision care.

A spokesman for the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities said it has no information on how prevalent the practice is among U.S. Catholic institutions of higher learning.

The Milwaukee archdiocese has not addressed Marquette's new policy directly. "That's really Marquette's decision," said Gillian Lester-George de Montesinos, an arch-diocesan spokeswoman. "They're run by an independent board."

Alverno College and Cardinal Stritch University, two other Milwaukee-area Catholic schools, offer health benefits to same-sex partners.

Jesuit Fr. Robert Wild, Marquette's president, told The Associated Press: "If we are truly pastoral in our application of the Jesuit principle of cura personalis ['care for the entire person'], I asked myself if I could reconcile that with denying health benefits to a couple who have legally registered their commitment to each other."

Last year, Marquette reached a confidential settlement with a lesbian whose job offer for a deanship was withdrawn. Some Marquette faculty and students suggested the university withdrew the offer because of the candidate's sexual orientation and because school officials questioned some of her published works and their relationship to the Catholic church's mission.

--Catholic News Service

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Title Annotation:NATION
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1U3WI
Date:Apr 15, 2011
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