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Benefits Vote Passes

Faculty Senate endorses same-sex domestic partnership benefits

Special to The Daily Helmsman

Published: Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 22:12

same sex benefit vote faculty senate

photo By Chris Wieland | staff

University of Memphis Faculty Senate members vote to approve same-sex domestic partnership benefits.

The University of Memphis Faculty Senate passed two resolutions focused on providing same-sex partners with the same benefits given to married employees at the University.

“We don’t have an answer on what same-sex benefits are,” President Thomas Banning said to the assembly Tuesday afternoon. “This is just an issue of getting someone to listen.”
The proposals, which originally started as one large resolution, were voted on separately. The first was to give one senator the ability to approach the Tennessee Board of Regents about performing an investigation on any effects experienced by state universities and colleges due to the lack of benefits given to same-sex domestic partnerships.

“Is it limiting our ability to bring the best and the brightest here?” Banning asked.

Thirty-three members of the Senate voted yes to the TBR resolution. No members voted against it.

The second resolution posed the question: “Does this membership endorse same-sex benefits equality?”

Twenty-nine members of the Senate voted yes. Three voted against the proposal. The vote, taken by hand, did not produce any recognized abstained although the numbers varied.

TBR Faculty Subcouncil chair James Bitter of East Tennessee State University was the one to ask that all faculty senates in the state “register its support of, or opposition to, an initiative to widen faculty benefits to include same-sex partners,” according to the background information on Tuesday’s agenda.

The faculty passed a motion previously to wait until all senators were able to take votes within their departments, and once that occurred it allowed them to give an educated, representative vote on Tuesday.

Richard Evans, the U of M representative to the subcouncil, wrote to the body, “I believe that the benefits equality resolution adequately documents my concerns that failing to extend these benefits in Tennessee will cost the state valuable faculty and staff talent.”
Evans suggested the Faculty Senate ask for the two items to be included in the TBR agenda for January.

The U of M Faculty Senate modeled the University of Tennessee Knoxville proposal, which passed. The UTK proposal specifically includes “health insurance benefits for the domestic partners of LGBT employees, family leave benefits … for the care of their domestic partners, [and] educational assistance benefits for the domestic partners and dependent children of LGBT employees.”
While the proposal passed at UTK last spring, Chancellor Jimmy Cheek responded in September, rejecting the resolution due to the state’s public policy regarding the recognition of same-sex domestic partnerships.

Since the endorsement of same-sex benefits passed the U of M Faculty Senate vote, a motion was introduced to have a separate meeting to detail the resolution. The new proposal, which will be sent to the TBR, will spell out the specific benefits same-sex domestic partners should receive.

The Faculty Policy Committee is in charge of drafting the resolution, which will be prepared by no later than the Feb. 19 meeting.

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