By Kayla Tucker – Editor-in-Chief
The Grand Rapids Community College Board of Trustees passed domestic partnership benefits for faculty and staff in a 6-1 vote at a meeting Monday after almost a year of discussion.
The stipulations for a staff member’s partner to receive domestic partnership benefits is that the couple must be in an exclusively committed relationship, have resided in the same principal residence for 18 continuous months, be unrelated and not in any other civil union or domestic partnership, not be a renter or a tenant of the partner and be financially responsible for each other. An affidavit will be signed by the unmarried couple agreeing to these stipulations.
The topic was under debate before gay marriage was made legal in June. Now, the benefits cover those unmarried, regardless of any other individual factors or preferences.
Staff members may apply for these benefits beginning in January.
The only opposer, trustee Richard Stewart, prepared a statement before the vote. Stewart alluded to the possibility of GRCC one day allowing benefits for partnerships including more than two people, following the passing of this benefit.
“By virtue of this proposal, GRCC now becomes the sole independent proprietor of what constitutes, in its own eyes, proof that a relationship is exclusive and committed,” Stewart said. “Once the foundational elements of historic marriage are no longer retained in civil domestic relationships, any and all things may be possible.”
Trustee Deb Bailey, responding to Stewart’s statements, recalled when she was single, and was pursuing the adoption of a child, and family benefits were only offered for three people.
“There didn’t seem to be a formula that I could ever pay for two,” Bailey said. “I had to pay for three, because that was the definition of a family.
“When I look at this proposal, I don’t see any plurals, there’s no ‘s’ in there … I think (there is) importance (in) an employee feeling fully engaged and respected in their choices when it might not be the majority.”