Commentary
10:35 am
Fri April 23, 2010

Commentary: Domestic partnership debate hits Murray State

Murray, KY – Universities across the United States and the Commonwealth of Kentucky have either adopted or shown interest in a controversial measure allowing domestic partnership benefits to their employees. Commentator Richard Nelson says Kentucky's academic institutions should stick to education, not "social engineering."

When the Murray State University Board of Regents adopted a sexual orientation, non-discrimination statement in 2008, I testified against the idea, noting that it would be a stepping stone to domestic partnerships. Now, two years later, Professor Kevin Binfield cited that statement as impetus for change, and on April 6, MSU's Faculty Senate took the first step by voting to extend health benefits to domestic partners. Is it farfetched to now make the case that widespread sanctioning of domestic partners will eventually open the door to gay marriage?

Professor Binfield, a philosopher himself, defines domestic partners as "people who have entered into long-term committed relationships comparable in duration and commitment to marriage." But he and others in the marriage deconstruction movement fail to consider the long-term implications of domestic partnerships. In fact, they've neglected to answer several important questions...

Why use traditional marriage as a reference point for domestic partnerships? Why limit partnerships to two people? Why have a minimum age requirement? And why shouldn't relatives qualify as domestic partners? The answers, of course, are elusive because when the core definition of marriage as one man and one woman is dismantled, then lesser requirements will tumble shortly thereafter.

It's one thing to get a definition wrong in an academic setting. It's quite another to impose a wrong definition on all of society and expect taxpayers to pick up the tab. University of Kentucky's "Domestic Partner Benefits Committee" estimated in 2007 that extending the marriage-like benefits to domestic partners will cost UK an additional $633,000 per year.

Dr. Randy Dunn told The News (MSU's student newspaper) that this is a recruiting issue. If that's the case, why not just increase the salaries of prospective hires? Why the need for dramatic social engineering?

With such a bold proposal coming from Murray State's elected academia, one would expect a more thorough analysis of the costs involved, not just economic costs (which is a real issue as state universities are facing 1-1.5 percent budget cuts over the next two years), but the price our culture will pay when bedrock relationships are manipulated by political interest groups.

In a day when marriage is struggling and four out of every 10 children in America are born out of wedlock, the last thing the traditional family needs is another hit. Giving marriage-like benefits to unmarried, sexual partners does just that. It sends the message that marriage is just another type of sexual relationship. It puts heterosexual marriage and non-marital, sexual relationships on the same plane, which clearly they're not. And it's an incentive to sexual relationships outside of marriage - something the state and federal government have been discouraging for years.

When domestic partnerships are legitimized, marriage becomes marginalized. Fewer people are likely to marry so long as they're treated like they're married. In fact, the University of Louisville - Kentucky's first public university to adopt domestic partnerships in 2006 - required a relationship of only 180 days in order to get the benefits. But do we really need more short-term relationships? Shouldn't governing authorities promote stronger, more durable marriages and life-long commitments?

Most would agree that society needs healthier families with both fathers and mothers devoted to raising their children. Mere partnerships between adults don't accomplish this. Marriage - not "marriage-lite" - is the relationship that deserves exclusive support from our university leaders. To do anything less is cheating our children in the long run.

Murray State Board of Regents is facing its biggest cultural test this year. Hopefully, they'll choose to shore up the relationship which is foundational to society. If they don't, marriage may become just another subject studied in history class.

Commentaries are of the opinion and mind of the commentator and do not necessarily reflect the views of WKMS.

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