Oct. 12, 2012
Marriage Equality – what is Western’s position?
--asked by a member of the Western community
As a university and on matters of important public policy, we have an absolute obligation to be a place for thorough, thoughtful, and passionate yet civil inquiry, learning, and debate.
What we may not do – as individual employees or as a university – is commit any state resources to advocating for a position in an election.
That having been said, we also have the freedom as a university to take positions on pending legislation and to share information on the consequences of ballot measures.
Last spring, when the legislature was considering the Marriage Equality bill, I did send a message to legislators and the governor, pointing out certain consequences for Western as I saw them.
That legislation has now been referred for a vote of the people. So, I thought I would share a copy of what I earlier wrote.
Involvement in the issues of the day: It’s the Western way.
Here’s the statement I sent last spring:
January 24, 2012
Subject: Marriage Equality Legislation
While our faculty, students and staff may take positions on matters of pending legislative action as they see fit, Western Washington University only takes positions when there is a direct connection to Western’s capacity to fulfill it’s publicly purposed mission. That mission, of course, is to apply our considerable strengths to address areas of critical importance to the state of Washington.
Where we see a clear link between pending legislation and that commitment to serve Washington, it is our obligation to take a position and inform you of it. We believe it self-evident that passage of the Marriage Equality legislation will improve Western’s capacity to fulfill its mission of service to the State of Washington.
We are a talent-based enterprise. The equation for Western’s acknowledged excellence is simple: outstanding faculty and staff plus outstanding students. Marriage equality would improve our ability to recruit and retain outstanding faculty and staff.
We seek the very best faculty and staff that we can find. With compensation falling further and further behind peers, we are really struggling here. Add to this the fact that couples in our employment who happen to be gay or lesbian pay a real, pocketbook tax penalty compared to couples able to marry and also are treated less favorably with regard to a number of employee benefits. And, therein lie further impediments to our ability to have the most talented faculty and staff possible.
Further, we believe that Washington’s leadership position, were it to become the seventh state to establish marriage equality, would positively contribute to our capacity to attract outstanding faculty to Washington, regardless of their sexual orientation.
This is a complex issue. Certainly, our faculty, staff, and students are not of one mind on the proposed legislation, and we always encourage their involvement in the issues of the day. Our elected officials have the responsibility of weighing the multiple dimensions of a particular proposal as they hear from citizens. Our responsibility is to advise you on one dimension: passage of the Marriage Equality legislation will strengthen Western’s capacity to fulfill its mission.
And, to conclude this blog, please do note, again because it is the law and a law we take very seriously, that the statement above (and this blog posting) does not advocate that you vote in any particular way. It restricts the content to consequences as we see them for Western and explicitly acknowledges both that there are any number of other dimensions for folks to consider and that we at Western are not of one mind on the matter.