Last week, Northwest College received a request that was bound to come up sooner or later.
As we reported in our Tuesday issue, a new faculty member at the college has asked NWC to consider offering the same health insurance benefits to domestic partners and same-sex couples that the college offers to married couples and their families.
The request was not made in a confrontational manner. It was not a demand, but a simple request that NWC consider making a change that would give her equal treatment and the same ability to protect and provide for her family that someone in a traditional marriage has.
The request is not a new one in Wyoming. The University of Wyoming already has a policy providing such benefits, a policy that is constructed so as to benefit committed partners without extending the same benefits to couples who are merely roommates.
Still, the request may arouse controversy. There will be objections on moral grounds, of course, but there may also be fiscal concerns for the college. Since Wyoming does not recognize same-sex marriage, state funding for the college that pays for employee benefits will not cover benefits extended to such couples.
Even so, there are advantages to granting such benefits. The ideal candidate for a position on the faculty might be lost to an institution that treats non-traditional couples equally, and treating employees unequally can affect staff morale and interfere with the work a faculty is charged with doing.
Most important, we must remember that, whatever the sexual orientation of an individual, he or she is a person who faces the same issues of health and safety all of us do. If the ability of one employee to insure his/her family is important to the college, then it is important for all its employees.
It is to the college’s credit that the NWC President’s Advisory Council did not reject the request out of hand and is willing to consider taking a controversial step.
According to NWC President Paul Prestwich, the college already is gathering information and will study the fiscal and legal issues involved. Given those issues, that is the best course NWC can take.
We hope it leads to a decision that treats all employees equally.