When Grand Rapids Community College Faculty Association President Fred van Hartesveldt, proposed that the college offer domestic partner benefits, at the January Board of Trustees meeting, it looked like the administration was making strides to become more inclusive.
Offering benefits to those in domestic partnerships is popular among many organizations and companies in the area and around the country, including Trustee Deb Bailey’s employer, Steelcase.
Although some on the board, including Chairman Bert Bleke, have publicly endorsed Ender’s proposal, it was surprising that nobody on the board spoke up against it.
When it was announced that the United States Supreme Court would be hearing the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to ban gay marriage, the GRCC Board of Trustees announced that they would be delaying their vote on domestic partnership benefits. The court’s decision should not factor into the board’s vote, because gay people are not the only people eligible to become domestic partners.
For some, this vote would go against a “certain worldview,” held by those who believe domestic partners should not receive the same benefits as those united by the holy institution of marriage. This is less about the sanctity of marriage and more about the fact that same-sex couples, who live together, qualify as domestic partners.
According to many state laws, any two people, regardless of sex, who live together, are considered domestic partners. So why then does the board feel it necessary to wait until after the Supreme Court decision to make theirs?
There isn’t a logical answer to the question. In 2011, Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill banning taxpayer paid health insurance for the domestic partners of public employees, which was ruled unconstitutional last year.
If the Board of Trustees wants to base their decision on a federal ruling regarding the constitutionality of domestic partner benefits there is no need to wait. The case that the U.S. Supreme Court is discussing is about gay marriage.
For the board, the only thing that would change, no matter the decision of the Supreme Court, is whether or not gay employees of the college would apply for benefits as married couples or domestic partners.
Either way, the school would still have to extend the same benefits, now being withheld, to openly gay people.
According to the GRCC website, the college “Create(s) an inclusive learning and working environment that recognizes the value and dignity of each person.” If the college wants to be all-inclusive, like its mission claims to be, then the right thing to do would be to extend benefits before the Supreme Court decision.