The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Benefits extended to university employees’ domestic partners

Keeping in line with a professed commitment to creating a more inclusive atmosphere for the LGBT community on campus, Marquette has decided to extend benefits to those in domestic partnerships with university employees.

University President the Rev. Robert A. Wild said the decision was based upon Marquette’s tradition and adherence to Jesuit principles.

“If we are truly pastoral in our application of the Jesuit principle of cura personalis, I asked myself if I could reconcile that with denying health benefits to a couple who have legally registered their commitment to each other,” Wild said in a statement.

The extension of benefits would begin to take effect in January 2012, the start of the next coverage year.

Octavio Castro, director of Human Resources, said in a statement that benefits currently offered to married couples — medical, dental and vision — will be extended to those in registered domestic partnerships.

Katie Belanger, the executive director of Fair Wisconsin, an LGBT advocacy group, said the group had worked with Marquette in improving LGBT relations and lauded the recent effort.

“Fair Wisconsin applauds Marquette on their decision to provide these basic protections for all of their employees,” she said in a press release.

Domestic partner benefits are already in place at a list of comparable universities, some Jesuit, including: Boston College, Georgetown University, Seattle University, all schools within the University of Wisconsin System and DePaul University.

Both students and university employees have called for the extension of benefits in recent months. The most indicative examples include a motion passed by the University Academic Senate recommending the benefits extension on Feb. 21 and a similar recommendation passed by Marquette Student Government on March 3.

Provost John Pauly said the motions passed by the bodies were important in the university’s decision.

“The university looks to groups such as the Academic Senate … for ideas about the sorts of benefits employees would find desirable,” Pauly said. “So certainly the senate and MUSG resolutions were an important signal of interest.”

Pauly said the decision process the university took was the same as most other matters and took into account the fact that several other universities have implemented similar benefits policies.

“As with any benefits issue, the university considered legal issues of eligibility, financial costs and the likely response of different stakeholder groups,” Pauly said. “The university was also aware that many large organizations have considered or initiated partner benefits the last several years, including a number of Jesuit universities.”

Financially, Pauly said the extensions would not constitute a large dent in the budget.

“Human Resources, working with Finance, estimated the number of people who would likely take advantage of the benefit, based upon the experience of other organizations, and the cost,” Pauly said. “The university decided that the new benefit would probably increase total health care costs by much less than half of 1 percent.”

Lisa Hanson, an associate professor and chair of the UAS Subcommittee of Equity, said the committee had begun researching the issue of benefit extensions as early as 2009.

“A faculty member (who brought up the matter) was concerned about the negative effect that the absence of domestic partner benefits would have,” Hanson said. “Since that time we had been gathering information … but put the issue at the top of our agenda in fall of 2010.”

Hanson said the subcommittee and the Committee on Faculty Welfare talked with several Human Resource departments at comparable universities, as well as held conversations with the Gender Resource Task Force and various faculty at Marquette while compiling the report.

The gathered information was presented to the UAS in its February meeting and passed as a motion recommending domestic partner benefits be adopted. That, along with the university’s decision, has Hanson and the subcommittee “very pleased with the outcome.”

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