LGBT employees may benefit from committee proposal

Tech’s Faculty Senate is set to review a resolution regarding benefit equality proposed by the Faculty Senate at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville during its meeting Nov. 12.
The Resolution on Support for Benefit Equality presented by the Benefits and Professional Development Committee proposes all benefits of employment at UT-Knoxville extend to all employees without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity.
The resolution was adopted April 2 and suggests that while members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered, or LGBT, Community contribute to the success of the university just as heterosexual faculty members do, the employee benefits for the LGBT employees are not the same. Specifically, these benefits include family leave, child care, educational assistance and health insurance for the domestic partners of LGBT employees.
Two administrators at UT-Knoxville, Chancellors Jimmy Cheek and Larry Arrington, initially received the resolution and were the subject of much ridicule from on-campus organizations such as the Commission for LGBT People when they denied the resolution, stating it is “inconsistent with the public policy of our state expressed in constitutional and statutory provisions.”

The chancellors’ response stated, “We hope you understand that in our positions as leaders of an agency of the State of Tennessee, it is incumbent upon us to act consistently with the public policy of our state.”
Resolution supporters argue employee benefit equality should be extended to LGBT employees because the University of Tennessee declares itself as an “EEO/AA/ Title VI/ Section 504/ ADA/ ADEA institution in the provision of its employment programs and services providing equal consideration for employment without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Supporters also maintain denying the resolution goes against one of the University’s mottos, “Welcoming to all and hostile to none,” and puts the University at a disadvantage in establishing diversity.
Currently, Tech has no policy regarding this issue, and many faculty members believe state legislation will need to be established before universities under the Tennessee Board of Regents can make policy changes.
Tech’s Faculty Senate will not make any comments on the matter at this time and plan to discuss conducting an official response to the resolution in its Jan. 25 meeting.