LGBT Issues From Virginia: They Matter to Illinois (and to us all)

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. (Spoiler alert: not so much.) But, there is a startlingly wonderful voice from within higher education that spoke recently in the Washington Post about why colleges and universities ought to care about the matter of same sex marriage — and especially why Virginians ought to. In speaking to this matter, the outgoing rector of William and Mary (aka Chair of the equivalent of their Board of Trustees), pointed to an array of reasons college and university presidents ought to care — and why Virginia ought to join states supporting same-sex marriage. The article appears here, but below I quote a few relevant points made by Jeff Trammell in an interview with the Post:

“The high court decision adds “a substantial incentive for our gay and lesbian faculty and staff to leave the Commonwealth’s public universities and colleges,” Trammell wrote to other Virginia higher education leaders in a June 26 e-mail, hours after the ruling was issued.” The ruling referred to? Of course, this was the Supreme Court Ruling on same sex marriage. This is what follows: “Trammell had earlier noted — in a letter on June 11 — that the presidents of the University of Virginia, George Mason University and William and Mary had pushed for the state to allow public universities to offer domestic partner health benefits in late 2009. That effort stalled after Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) took office in January 2010.”

Trammell, who has lived with his partner for 36 years and is a William and Mary graduate, has taken the lead in contacting others within Virginia higher education and urging them to work against discrimination. And that, he argues, is what it is to be a state that recognizes only heterosexual marriage. It is to be a state — and a set of higher education institutions, that discriminates.  (Though he does not mention Loving v. Virginia, perhaps that decision resonates.)

Thanks Jeff, for reminding us that while presidents and chancellors have a bully pulpit (whether they use it or not), so too do those who serve higher education in the boards that lead our institutions. Yes, William and Mary is a public institution, and the matter may be relevant for them across the country as the politics of discrminiation is shaped by. . .  well, politics. But we are all affected, even in Illinois. Where, of course, the same issue affects us all. It affects us because we cannot retain faculty and staff, because our students are hurt, and thus economically. More importantly, it damages our credibility around our educational missions — for our missions call us to responsible citizenship not discrimination.

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