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Catholic-run Marquette University in Milwaukee will begin offering domestic-partner benefits to employees in 2012, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
University president Robert A. Wild announced the move Thursday. Employees' same-sex partners will be eligible for the medical, dental, and vision insurance currently offered to heterosexual spouses. The partners must share a residence and be in a registered domestic partnership, which is Wisconsin's means of legal recognition for gay relationships. Couples can register at county clerks' offices.
Wild said extending the benefits is in keeping with the mission of the school, run by the Jesuit religious order. "If we are truly pastoral in our application of the Jesuit principle of cura personalis, I asked myself if I could reconcile that with denying health benefits to a couple who have legally registered their commitment to each other," he said. Cura personalis is Latin for "care for the entire person."
The faculty senate and student government both recently voted in favor of offering the benefits at Marquette, which has not always had an easy relationship with its LGBT employees and students. About a year ago, the campus was embroiled in controversy over the withdrawal of a job offer to Jodi O'Brien, a lesbian academic from Seattle University who was a candidate for dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Marquette. University officials said the action was not related to her sexual orientation but rather arose from concerns that some of her scholarly writings were incompatible with the school's Catholic identity.
In the wake of criticism for rescinding the offer, Marquette commissioned a study of the environment for its LGBT students and staff, which found that some of these students felt harassed and some staff members wished for more support from top university officials. The university also apologized to O'Brien and reached a legal settlement with her. It was unclear, however, if the decision to offer domestic-partner benefits was related, the Journal Sentinel noted.