Education A National Roundup

R.I. School District Asks Court for Guidance on Gay Marriage

By Vaishali Honawar — January 11, 2005 1 min read

A school district in Rhode Island has asked a state superior-court judge to decide whether a retired teacher can include her same-sex spouse in her health plan.

Cheryl McCollough, 60, a Massachusetts resident, and Joyce Boivin, 54, have been a couple for the last 25 years and were married last year after Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage. But when Ms. McCollough, who worked for the Tiverton, R.I., school district for 27 years, asked the district to add Ms. Boivin to her retirement health benefits, she found herself in untested waters.

Rhode Island has no policy on same-sex marriages. A lawyer for the Tiverton school committee, which weighed Ms. McCollough’s request, advised the district that Ms. Boivin was not entitled to receive health-care benefits.

In December, the school committee agreed to add Ms. Boivin to Ms. McCollough’s plan, as long as she paid the extra cost. She will be reimbursed approximately $500 a month if the court rules in her favor.

The American Civil Liberties Union is assisting Ms. McCollough. Lynette Labinger, a lawyer for the ACLU, said the case is “pretty mundane” and requires the school committee to simply fulfill its contractual agreement to provide spouses of employees with health-care benefits. “It just so happens that the twist on this one is that Massachusetts recognizes marriages between two same-sex residents” but Rhode Island has not taken a stand on the issue, she said.

Written arguments in the case will be submitted by Jan. 21.

A version of this article appeared in the January 12, 2005 edition of Education Week