Marquette Warrior: Marquette Faculty Senate Committee Pushes Domestic Partner Benefits for Gay and Lesbian Employees

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Marquette Faculty Senate Committee Pushes Domestic Partner Benefits for Gay and Lesbian Employees

Actually, they aren’t honest enough to call them “domestic partner benefits,” but that’s clearly the issue.

Tomorrow (Monday) a subcommittee of the Committee on Faculty Welfare of the University Academic Senate will meet to consider something they call “Legally Domiciled Adult” benefits. The meeting will be from 1:00-2:30 in Room 364 of the Alumni Memorial Union.

The following e-mail was sent to members of the subcommittee:
Dear colleagues,

The LDA benefits motion was modified slightly for clarity at the Subcommittee on Equity meeting last night. Attached you will find the final motion that was unanimously approved by the subcommittee membership.

We on the Subcommittee on Equity are anxious for this motion to be successful but we all need to give the shared governance process a chance to work. This motion will move forward to Committee on Faculty Welfare (CFW). The co-chairs (Matt Blessing and Judith McMullem) of that committee are copied on this email and have been actively involved in the process to this point, which is a real advantage. When/if the motion is approved by CFW it will be forwarded to the executive committee of UAS. The chair and vice-chair of UAS [University Academic Senate] are aware that the motion is on its way (another advantage). If the Executive Committee agrees to allow it to go on the agenda, then it can be presented at UAS. After it is presented, UAS can decide if they are ready for a vote. As I mentioned, I am willing to “midwife” the motion through the process and present it at UAS. I would anticipate that if all goes well the earliest it could be heard at UAS would be January or February. When it is presented, I think it would be good to mobilize all of our own senators to be aware of the importance of this motion as an equity issue.

Congratulations on a very good motion and a collaborative process! Thank you for everyone’s effort to make this possible, especially to the author of the original motion.

With thanks and kind regards, Lisa

Lisa Hanson, PhD, CNM, FACNM
Associate Professor
Marquette University
College of Nursing
How does that motion that Hanson is willing to “midwife” read? Here it is:

• Whereas Marquette University has a statement of non-discrimination, which reads: “Marquette University does not discriminate in any manner contrary to law or justice on the basis of race, color, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, disability, veteran’s status or national origin in its educational programs or activities, including employment and admissions”;

• Whereas, the Ignatian principle of cura personalis stems from a conviction of the transcendent and divinely-conferred equal dignity of all persons, regardless of societal status or cultural recognition;

• Whereas, the provision of benefits to those designated as “Legally Domiciled Adults” (LDAs) is consistent with the Catholic Church’s long-standing teaching that access to healthcare is fundamental to human dignity;

• Whereas, a comprehensive definition of LDA is;

A Legally Domiciled Adult is an individual over 18 who has, for at least 6 months, lived in the same principal residence with the employee and remains a member of the employee’s household throughout the coverage period; and who

EITHER (Category A) has a close personal relationship with the employee (not a casual roommate or tenant), shares basic living expenses and is financially interdependent with the employee. The LDA is neither legally married to anyone else nor legally related to the employee by blood in any way that would prohibit marriage, and is not receiving benefits from an employer and is not eligible for any group coverage;

OR (Category B) is a blood relative who meets the definition of a tax dependent as defined by Section 152 of the Internal Revenue Code during the coverage period and is not receiving benefits from an employer, is not eligible for any group coverage and would not be eligible for Medicare or Medicaid due to age or other factors.
(Seattle University HRWebsite retrieved 10-28-10)

• Whereas Marquette University does not currently provide human resources benefits to LDAs;

• Whereas in particular, this gap in human resources policies violates the University’s non-discrimination statement to the extent that not providing said benefits renders lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered-identified (LGBT)-identified employees as being treated differently from all other University employees on the basis of their sexual orientation;

• Whereas as of November 2010—according to human resources information readily accessible on their respective websites—an increasing number of peer Jesuit and other Catholic colleges and universities provide LDA plans including but not limited to: DePaul University, Fordham University, Georgetown University, University of San Francisco, Loyola University-Los Angeles, Loyola University-Chicago, Santa Clara University, and Seattle University;

• Whereas Marquette’s long historical commitment to the Jesuit tradition of social justice and equity calls the University to join this group;

• Whereas failure to provide benefits in a manner that is equitable and fair to all University employees including those with LDAs is an action that is out of line with policies at public institutions, private institutions, and religious institutions with which Marquette regularly competes to attract high-quality faculty and thus makes faculty and administrator recruitment and retention increasingly difficult at Marquette;

• Whereas the provision of LDA benefits will enhance the inclusivity and quality of life of the entire Marquette community;

Be it resolved that the University Academic Senate call for the President of Marquette University, Father Robert Wild, to direct that current human resource benefits policies be amended no later than the beginning of the 2011-12 academic year to provide LDA benefits equal to the benefits currently provided to the spouses and dependents of faculty, administrators, and staff.
Here is the PDF version with all the original formatting intact.

Interestingly, this policy, if adopted, would not only provide domestic partner benefits for gay and lesbian “partners” of Marquette faculty, it would provide the same benefits for heterosexual “partners” who are living together, and aren’t willing to get married.

Our former colleague Christopher Wolfe has written a response to this motion.
The motion clearly represents an effort to reject — contrary to Catholic teaching — any distinction between a real marriage and other relationships. It would seem to apply to cohabiting heterosexual couples as well as homosexual couples. (Perhaps MU already covers the former.)

The motion also clearly would discriminate against anyone who has a blood relative living with him or her who is not a tax dependent: e.g., a mother or aunt younger than 65, who has a pension. It is predicated on a “close personal relationship,” which pretty clearly is intended to imply a sexual relationship, though they jump through hoops to avoid saying that (maybe to avoid discriminating against impotent homosexuals!).

Adopting the motion would put MU on record as minimizing or denying the essential difference between marriage and other cohabiting arrangements. That is, I believe, its very intention.

It would be best to defeat the motion entirely.

If that can’t be done, then it would be best to amend the motion to delete: in category A “ . . .has a close personal relationship with the employee (not a casual roommate or tenant . . .” and “. . . is neither legally married to anyone else nor legally related to the employee by blood in any way that would prohibit marriage, and . . .” So Category A would read:
“and shares basic living expenses, is financially interdependent with the employee, and is not receiving benefits from an employer and is not eligible for any group coverage.”
The motion is wrong when it says that the current policy “renders lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered-identified (LGBT)-identified employees as being treated differently from all other University employees on the basis of their sexual orientation.” The difference in treatment is not based on their being lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered, but rather on the basis of the fact that they are not married. [Unless, that is, MU currently pays for live-in heterosexual cohabitors. But if MU is doing that, then the motion should be amended to eliminate coverage for them, on the same grounds: the benefit was created as a family benefit, based on marriage.]

The fact is that a true commitment to social justice would require that Marquette do nothing to undermine marriage by rendering it irrelevant to fringe benefits that are based on a marital relationship. And, if the benefit is to be changed to a non-marital benefit, it should not be defined, in labyrinthine, elliptical ways, to apply only to sexual relationships (even if that would increase the cost significantly).
Of course, liberal and leftist faculty can pass a lot of motions and have them ignored by the administration.

But Fr. Wild, feeling the need to placate the gay and lesbian lobby in the wake of the Jodi O’Brien kerfuffle, may be open to such a policy.

In spite of all the blather about “social justice” and “non-discrimination,” this is simply a demand from secular faculty that Marquette subsidize sexual relationships that Church teaching says are illicit.

If Marquette adopts it, they are explicitly admitting that the “Catholic mission” of the University is nothing more than an advertising gimmick — essentially a lie.

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Blogger Churchill's Parrot said...

No doubt parents spending considerable funds to send their kids to Marquette for a Catholic Jesuit education/experience would appreciate knowing that their tuition dollars are helping to fund something like this.

12:48 PM  
Blogger jimspice said...

So who is the more egregious sinner? The couple who can get married but don't want to, or the couple who want to get married but can't.

4:26 PM  
Blogger John McAdams said...


I don't think Marquette should subsidize either sort of relationship.

5:51 PM  
Anonymous TK said...

I'm confused. Does the Catholic mission mean that Marquette has to make sure all classes are compatible with official Catholic doctrine? If so, isn't that incompatible with the very definition of a liberal arts education? It's a university, not a seminary.

And all policy with regards to hiring and benefits et. al. has to be in-line with whatever it is the Pope happens to be saying? (I'm not trying to be flippant, really. I'm not Catholic and didn't go to a religious undergraduate school so all the hoopla about Catholic identity and the role the church plays in dictating school policy is a little unfamiliar to me.)

I mean the mission of the school is: "Marquette University is a Catholic, Jesuit university dedicated to serving God by serving our students and contributing to the advancement of knowledge. Our mission, therefore, is the search for truth, the discovery and sharing of knowledge, the fostering of personal and professional excellence, the promotion of a life of faith, and the development of leadership expressed in service to others. All this we pursue for the greater glory of God and the common benefit of the human community."

It doesn't explicitly say anything about Catholic doctrine in the mission. I mean, it says its a Catholic, Jesuit university, but what the hell does that mean? It seems to mean something different to you than it does to Dan Maguire.

Other Catholic theologians seem to be able to reconcile Catholic doctrine with equal rights for LGBT people, including other Jesuit universities. I know you don't find that a compelling argument, but I find it hard to believe a whole slew of Jesuit priests and theologians are just completely wrong both here and at other universities.

It seems to me the split seems to come from those who emphasize the Jesuit part of all of it (along with the social justice doctrine and Catholic social teaching, service learning, etc) and those that emphasize the Catholic part (which seems to be more conservative.)

Perhaps Marquette needs to decide which one it wants to be. The constant waffling is just going to alienate both sides.

11:24 PM  
Anonymous Adam said...

Perhaps to clarify how a Jesuit and Catholic identity are compatable. By Catholic you seem to mean more conservative and following what the Pope. By Jesuit you mean liberal and not willing to listen to what the Pope says. Jesuits take a vow of obedience to the Pope in the spirit of the Founder, though it is optional. Nonetheless, the Founders of the Jesuits made a point of obedience, particularly to the Pope. Secondly, being Jesuit means an order of the Roman Catholic Church. They are not two separate institutions per se. The Jesuit order is a part of the Catholic Church. When the Pope ordered them to be supressed, they obeyed and shut themselves down temporarily until the suppression was lifted. To be a Jesuit is to be Catholic. Those other Jesuit schools also do not tend to have even Jesuit Presidents, though they might. If Jesuits do not have members dedicated to the ideals, doesn't destroy the ideals. Even if every Packer player does not follow the play which Mike McCarthy called, it does not make the players less of players just as it does not take away from what the play is. The play is still the play, they just did not run it.
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.

11:43 AM  
Blogger Churchill's Parrot said...

TK - Good points about the confusion within the Church and at Marquette re: Catholic identity. All the more reason the university should focus its efforts on clearly defining what it stands for as a Catholic Jesuit institution.

As for benefits for domestic partners and LGBT employees,the issue is more one of fiscal sanity than Catholic identity. Where does one draw the line? For whom does one NOT provide benefits? Relatives? Neighbors? Really good friends?

Companies, states, and nations are plunging into bankruptcy the world over because they over-promised on employee benefits. Do we wish the same fate for Marquette?

12:58 PM  

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