Despite voter support for the gay marriage amendment earlier this month, the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents might request domestic partner benefits when they meet next week.
The regents will discuss their 2007-09 unclassified pay plan request next Thursday, and Regent Chuck Pruitt said Tuesday that discussion of including domestic partner benefits in the request may come up at that point.
And Pruitt added, on a personal level, he hopes the board would think about asking for the benefits again.
"Personally, I would hope that we would consider proposing it again on the basis of fairness and competitiveness," Pruitt said.
In October, prior to the election in which voters passed the amendment, the regents' Business, Finance and Audit Committee, which Pruitt chairs, proposed the board take a stance against the marriage ban. The proposal was passed by the full board nearly unanimously.
"One of the reasons the board decided to come out against [the amendment] was some concern that we thought it might be subject to future litigations," Pruitt said.
And future litigations are in question, as Pruitt said legal action could be taken if domestic partner benefits are passed.
"I think the bigger question would be if it goes through, would there be some legal challenges since we obviously don't offer benefits at this point?" he asked.
However, State Rep. Mark Gundrum, R-New Berlin, who authored the gay-marriage amendment, said benefits are not completely ruled out by the passage of the amendment.
"If done correctly, the amendment would not preclude those benefits," Gundrum said.
Regardless, the amendment will have no effect on the board proposing domestic partner benefits, Pruitt said.
Currently, UW-Madison is the only university in the Big Ten conference that does not provide domestic partner benefits to its employees. Top administration officials have been vocal about their discontent with this discrepancy and the passage of the gay marriage amendment.
The university held a forum two weeks ago, and Chancellor John Wiley, Provost Patrick Farrell and Interim Dean of Students Lori Berquam were among those to listen to some staff members who might leave Wisconsin because of the lack of domestic partner benefits.
Wiley said at the forum teaching abilities have nothing to do with an individual's sexual orientation.
"Intelligence, creativity and all of the other things we look for in faculty are absolutely uncorrelated with sexual preference," Wiley said. "In this instance, we're apparently forced to discriminate against our will."
The UW-Madison chemistry department, Committee on Women and Berquam all issued statements expressing disappointment with the passage of the amendment. In addition to the regents, the mathematics department took a stance against the proposed amendment before the election.
Two years ago, Pruitt said the regents asked for domestic partner benefits as part of their unclassified pay plan request but were denied. He said such benefits discussions do typically come with such a pay plan.
The Board of Regents will meet next Thursday and Friday in Van Hise Hall.
— Alexandra Rogers contributed to this report.