A University of Wisconsin Board of Regents committee voted Thursday to oppose the controversial same-sex marriage ban that will be on the state ballot this November.
Meeting in Platteville, the Business, Finance, and Audit Committee determined the amendment could jeopardize UW's ability to retain faculty members. The proposal will go before the full board today and is expected to pass.
Regent Charles Pruitt, who chairs the committee, said a gay marriage amendment would hurt the UW System's ability to offer benefits to same-sex partners.
"To the committee, it came down to competitiveness," Pruitt said in a phone interview after Thursday's meeting. "I'm concerned this amendment might restrict that and make it more difficult to provide domestic-partner benefits."
UW-Madison is currently the only university in the Big Ten that does not provide domestic-partner benefits to faculty members, as current state law prohibits it from doing so.
Pruitt, who offered the resolution, said the amendment would hurt any future chance of enacting such benefits.
"There's potential that there may be efforts to restrict the university from providing domestic partner benefits," he added.
As part of the committee's preparation for their controversial stance — which could end up further alienating the regents from the Republican-controlled Legislature — Pruitt said representatives from Lands' End, Foot Locker and the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce spoke before his committee Thursday.
"[Lands' End and Foot Locker] spoke about why domestic partners benefits are important," Pruitt said. "And the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce was specific about opposing the amendment."
The Lands' End and Foot Locker representatives said 40 percent of Wisconsin companies already have domestic partner benefits, Pruitt added.
UW-Madison Chancellor John Wiley has previously gone on the record as being opposed to the amendment for the same reasons as the regents committee, saying domestic partner benefits are important for the university.
Neither of this year's gubernatorial campaigns have formally suggested the board take a stance on the amendment, and Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle and U.S. Rep. Mark Green, R-Wis., have long held conflicting opinions on the issue. Doyle is in opposition of the amendment, while Green supports it.
A Platteville focus
In decidedly less controversial discussion, the board also spent time Thursday touring the UW-Platteville campus and hearing from UW-Platteville Chancellor David Markee about the future of the university.
According to a UW System release, Markee said the Platteville campus is taking extra efforts to become a more diverse community, including hosting children, parents and staff from Madison's Nehemiah Community Development Program — a youth organization dedicated to helping black students succeed.
The university also plans on growing its student population from the current 6,300 to 8,000 in the next seven to eight years.
Also Thursday, the regents' Physical Planning and Funding Committee recommended the full board accept a UW Foundation gift to expand the UW-Madison Arboretum.
The gift would expand the Finnerud Forest near Minoqua with an additional 31 acres of land.