Continuing to fight for Domestic Partners Benefits

Employees, students protest decision

By: Shakia Harris
As Sam McFarland, a part-time psychology professor, stood in front of Wetherby on Thursday, he was greeted with glares, thumbs-up and partial nods.
Nearly a month after the Benefits Committee voted against offering domestic partner, or other qualified dependent (OQD), benefits to Western employees, faculty and staff members are standing at the steps of Wetherby Administration Building, urging officials to change their minds.
“We’re just trying to make it known to the president that there’s substantial support for domestic partner benefits,” he said.
Domestic partner benefits are benefits an employer chooses to offer an employee’s unmarried partner, whether of the same or opposite sex, according to information from the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

Starting this week, a student or faculty or staff member will be standing in front of Wetherby every day holding a sign in silent protest until a change is made, said Robert Dietle, head of the history department.

“It’s nothing big and dramatic,” Dietle said. “It’s just something we need to do.”
The silent protest began Tuesday with English professor Mary Ellen Miller.
“It was cold as blazes, but I was determined to stick it out,” she said.
A few people spoke to her and offered words of encouragement, while others avoided her entirely, Miller said.
Kari Aikins, committee member and manager of employee benefits and retirement, said the committee voted 8-6 against the benefits on Feb. 16.
Human Resources Director Tony Glisson, who voted against the benefits, declined to comment. But he said previously his vote was based on data concerning tax implications and changes in the payroll system.
Kevin Smiley, president of the Student Government Association, said he’ll be at Wetherby today.
Even though only a small portion of Western’s faculty would be affected by the decision, it’s still important to treat everyone fairly, Smiley said.
“I dislike the notion that there are people here at Western that feel like they don’t belong,” he said. “As a student advocate, I feel like that’s where we have to step in.”
Bowling Green senior Skylar Baker-Jordan said despite claims that the benefits were rejected due to cost reasons or because gay marriage is illegal in Kentucky, he speculates that personal prejudices played a part in the decision.

“Just because the state of Kentucky decides to discriminate doesn’t mean that Western should,” he said. “Fifty years ago, black students couldn’t go to school with white students. 100 years ago, women couldn’t vote, but that was the law in Kentucky. That doesn’t make it right.”


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