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Faculty opens debate on partner benefits



Published: Fri, August 23, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



An open forum on the issue is to be scheduled.

By IAN HILL

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Faculty at Youngstown State University ended contract negotiations by announcing the start of a public discussion on domestic partners and health care.

Dr. Gabriel Palmer-Fernandez, director of the Dr. James Dale Ethics Center at YSU, said the center will host an open forum on the "important issue of a basic right to adequate health care." He did not say when or where.

"All universities should be places of tolerance," added Dr. Pamela Schuster, a professor of nursing. "If we don't start here [to discuss equal benefits], where do we start? It has to start here, where we enlighten people."

Opposed to definition

Trustees Joseph Nohra and F.W. Knecht III are morally opposed to a contract provision defining "domestic partners" as immediate family when it comes to sick and medical leave. A faculty proposal to extend medical benefits to domestic partners was not included in the agreement.

Nohra, an ordained deacon in the Catholic Church, said the church does not recognize domestic partners. Catholic Internet sites note that some Catholics believe that by providing health care benefits to domestic partners, organizations and businesses discourage people from creating traditional families.

On Thursday, Palmer-Fernandez quoted the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' "Pastoral Letter on Health and Health Care" as stating that, "every person has a right to adequate health care." He also cited a section in a fact-finder's report stating that YSU is a part of a "shrinking list" of universities that do not extend benefits to domestic partners.

Union leader's assertion

Faculty union president John Russo called the decision not to extend the benefits homophobic, noting the administration wouldn't approve the sick-leave section of the contract unless a reference to "same-sex" partners was deleted.

YSU President Dr. David Sweet said the administration based the sick-leave section on a similar section in Ohio State University's contracts with its employees which does not include a reference to same-sex partners.

hill@vindicator.com




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