Forgetting your inequality

Marta called me the other night from the second of many job interviews. This one was in Utah, a state we had decided wouldn’t be that bad for our queer familía (especially cause my good friend Emmy Lou lives there). Obviously we’d thought wrong.

“Everything’s great here; the people are nice and it’s beautiful,” Marta told me. “Except when I asked about domestic partner benefits, they said they don’t have anything.”

“What?!” I said.

“Yep. Nothing,” she said.

Which means that, if we moved to Utah and Marta took a job at this small public university, I would also quickly have to find a full-time job with insurance benefits. What we would do with Nico, who knows. Store her in a closet, perhaps.The irony of it was sort of overwhelming. All these “pro-family” people have passed these laws to protect “the family,” but really all they’ve done is make life harder for certain families. Like ours.

In Iowa, at the University of Iowa, it’s easy to forget that you’re still a second-class citizen. We’re free to marry in the state and even before that the university provided domestic partnership benefits. In fact, so many private companies are providing domestic partner benefits that I just assumed their university counterparts were already on board with that basic human right (and, to be frank, competitive advantage).

Apparently not.

After the shock of Utah, we started investigating the other universities Marta’s going to visit for job interviews in the coming month. Those in states like New York obviously offer benefits as does a university she interviewed at in Pennsylvania. But that large public university in Texas? Nope. And that “Research One” university just outside D.C.? Also no.

In fact, after searching through the Human Rights Campaign’s employer database, I found that just 249 universities (out of 631 in the database) offer domestic partner health benefits. Barely any of the public universities in southern states offer them, though most of the private universities in these same states do.

That’s because the fault often doesn’t lie with these universities. I’ve come across dozens of articles in a quick search this morning about university officials pushing for domestic partner benefits, arguing that they are losing valuable job candidates because they can’t offer them, but their state legislatures refuse to budge. Because, you see, many of those ant-gay marriage amendments passed by conservative states in the past few years extend to domestic partner health benefits (something I hadn’t realized). And if it is illegal to recognize same-sex union in a state it is also illegal for any of that state’s public universities to offer health benefits to the same-sex spouse of an employee. Like me.

It also means that, were I to have a child in the coming years–which I plan to do–Marta most likely wouldn’t be able to adopt that child. Nor would she be able to, legally, take time off work after the baby is born. I’d also be barred from access to the gym at the university where she works and could’t receive bundles of money if she dies. OK, kidding about that last one, but in all seriousness, this situation sucks.

I was talking to my friend Erica about this yesterday and she said, “You know in the future people are going to look back on all this and be amazed that we were so prejudiced.” I agree with her. I know things will change. It’s just frustrating that they haven’t already.

4 thoughts on “Forgetting your inequality

  1. Maybe you and Marta should stay in Iowa and just keep getting higher degrees.
    I had a lot more to say on the Utah bit. I decided to not be too controversial in this forum.


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