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Wisconsin
marriage amendment has university faculty and staff looking
for new jobs

Wisconsin
marriage amendment has university faculty and staff looking
for new jobs

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Gay and lesbian faculty and staff at the University of Wisconsin-Madison say they might quit their jobs because of the state's passage of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions.

Gay and lesbian faculty and staff at the University of Wisconsin-Madison say they might quit their jobs because of the state's passage of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions. "I think that a lot of people are looking elsewhere," said Concha Gomez, an academic staff member in the mathematics department. Meeting Wednesday with about 100 concerned students, faculty, and staff, U.W.-Madison chancellor John Wiley said the amendment makes it unlikely that Wisconsin's legislature will add health insurance benefits for domestic partners. U.W.-Madison is the only school in the Big 10 that doesn't offer health insurance coverage for domestic partners, which puts the university at a competitive disadvantage in recruiting and retaining employees, he said. Gomez said she started looking for jobs in other states the day after the amendment passed. She said she and her partner entered into a civil union in Vermont in 2000, but now they fear they have no legal rights in Wisconsin. Dennis Miller, an employee in the art department, told Wiley that his partner resigned his job in the admissions office Tuesday over the issue. Some employees vowed to lobby state lawmakers for domestic-partner benefits despite the overwhelming vote last week for the amendment. Wiley said a state law that defines "family" for insurance purposes must be changed before the university can offer the benefits. Lawmakers have repeatedly rejected attempts to do so, and every other attempt by the U.W. to find ways around the law has failed, he said. "In this one instance we are now apparently forced to discriminate very much against our will," he said. While a team of employees reviews the potential ramifications, Wiley said, current benefits and services offered for gay couples will remain in place unless a court orders the U.W. to change them. The campus helps domestic partners of newly hired employees find jobs and receive in-state tuition. The partners can also qualify for library cards and passes to U.W. recreational facilities, among other benefits. To qualify, they fill out a form verifying they are in a committed relationship with commingled finances. Eric Trekell, director of the campus lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender center, said the university's response will be key in whether it retains gay employees such as himself. He applauded Wiley's pledge that Madison would continue to be a welcoming place for all employees. Trekell said he has received e-mails from people "as they are crying at their computers and students just enraged and vowing vengeance." "The people of the state of Wisconsin said it's not merely gay marriage," he said. "They said, 'We're not going to recognize your relationships at all.'" (Ryan J. Foley, AP)

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