Proposal for progress

Colleen Dulle

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The faculty senate approved a proposal encouraging the university to extend the same employee benefits to same-sex couples as heterosexual couples.

On Nov. 13, The Fringe Benefit Committee, which gives feedback on the university’s employee benefit policies, proposed that the faculty express their support for a policy change.

Chuck Nichols, Fringe Benefit Committee and faculty senate member, said that after some “vigorous discussion,” the Senate passed the motion with overwhelming support.

“It was very encouraging to see the level of support for a policy of equality,” Nichols said.

The university administration can choose whether or not it will put the proposal into action. Nichols said he is hopeful that the administration will see the benefits of changing Loyola’s policy.

“It will make our university stronger, and most importantly, it is the right thing to do,” Nichols said.

Due to the university’s Catholic identity, there was some debate about whether giving same-sex couples these benefits was the right thing to do. The Catholic Church does not recognize same-sex marriages as legitimate.

The Rev. Ed Vacek, S.J. and Stephen J. Duffy, department chair in Catholic Studies and a longtime sexual ethics professor, presented a nine-page note to the faculty senate opposing the original proposal and presenting a different one.

Vacek’s proposal suggested that Loyola follow the example of Georgetown University, another Jesuit school.  Georgetown, his proposal said, provides health benefits for any adult of the employee’s choosing and who is also in that employee’s household.

Members of the faculty senate deemed this proposal too costly, opting instead to approve benefits for “all spouses and domestic partners of benefit-eligible Loyola University employees,” the proposal said.

Ultimately, Vacek did not approve of the motion that passed, because it supported  domestic partnerships in addition to legally-married couples. Vacek said that Loyola should remain neutral on same-sex marriages and domestic partnerships.

“The present Senate proposal, however, seems proactively to foster such relationships,” Vacek said.

Naomi Yavneh Klos, director of the University Honors Program, said that the final proposal fit the social justice component of Loyola’s Jesuit mission.

“Our Ignatian values teach us that it is our obligation to stand in solidarity with the marginalized and oppressed,” Yavneh said.

Yavneh said that because the university supports legally-married spouses who have been divorced and remarried, which the Catholic Church does not recognize as legitimate marriage, the school should also support same-sex couples.

“When Jesus changes the water into wine at the wedding feast, I don’t see him doing a background check on the bride and groom,” Yavneh said.

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