[media-credit name=’RAY PFEIFFER/Herald photo’ align=’alignright’ width=’336′][/media-credit]While most Wisconsinites are proud to reside in the Badger State, one University of Wisconsin faculty member has been looking to leave since this fall.
Concha Gomez, UW faculty member in the mathematics department said the proposal and recent passage of Wisconsin's gay-marriage amendment led her to look for jobs outside the state. Voters passed the amendment in the Nov. 7 election, effectively banning same-sex marriage and civil unions.
"Early in the fall I started thinking about how it would feel if the amendment passed, and how likely it would be for my partner and I to feel that we could stay here long-term and grow old and retire," Gomez said.
Gomez said she and her partner moved to Wisconsin two years ago and added that she would be sending out "feeler" applications to see what kind of response she gets.
According to Gomez, when she accepted a job at UW the math department supported her relationship and assured her that Wisconsin would eventually be able to offer domestic-partner benefits.
"They said the domestic-partner benefits was a big problem in the recruitment, but the university was committed to get full domestic-partner benefits for employees, and that was pretty sincere," Gomez said. "Perhaps they were naíve — and so was I."
Gomez said she will continue working at UW until she finds a job elsewhere, but added California is her destination of choice.
California recognizes domestic-partner benefits, Gomez said, and added the Golden State does not appear to have a marriage amendment similar to the one in Wisconsin on the horizon.
"It is really important to us that we are able to support each other if something were to happen," Gomez said of her and her partner. "We are not so much interested in marriage as we are in security and being recognized by our government as a couple."
However, author of the amendment Rep. Mark Gundrum, R-New Berlin, said he does not know why UW faculty and staff's sentiments about working at the university have changed since the Nov. 7 election because "nothing has changed."
Gundrum said faculty and staff leaving the state in reaction to the amendment was not a concern of his while he was writing the amendment. He added that he does not think UW faculty and staff leaving the state will affect the UW students.
"Maybe the faculty that replace them won't be as much of liberal activists," Gundrum said. "But other than that, I can't imagine. I'm sure they'll hire replacements that are very qualified."
UW Interim Dean of Students Lori Berquam noted the amendment impacts unmarried heterosexual couples as well as same-sex couples. Before the amendment passed by a vast majority, there was hope that domestic-partner benefits could be obtained in Wisconsin, Berquam said. That hope, according to Berquam, is now gone.
"With the passing of the amendment it's pretty clear it's not going to change for a while," Berquam said. "It's pretty clear that if you want to be in a domestic-partner relationship and you need those benefits, or you want those benefits, then obviously you'll have to go elsewhere to get them."
UW Provost Patrick Farrell acknowledged the fact that faculty who "held out hope" that domestic-partner benefits would eventually be offered at UW could see the passage of the amendment as a "discouraging message."
Farrell added that it is possible those faculty have "since taken that message to decide that maybe they don't see change happening in a timeframe that they are happy with."