As far as Catholic universities go, Carlow does a relatively good job at making sexual minority students feel welcome. We have a robust LGBT&Allies program, and Coming Out Day is one of the more unique features at Carlow that we should all be proud of, regardless of sexuality or gender.
However, if you’re a staff or faculty member, perhaps you don’t feel quite as welcome. While the school has taken a progressive stance towards its students, its attitude towards its employees isn’t quite so welcoming. Currently, Carlow University does not give benefits, such as healthcare, to same-sex partners of its employees, regardless if it is a domestic partnership, or a legally wed couple.
According to Andra Tokarsky, the Director of Human Resources, “Carlow has given serious consideration to the topic of healthcare benefits for domestic partners. We recognize that healthcare is a right for everyone, and support the proposal for universal healthcare to embrace all who are in need of coverage. We have researched other Catholic institutions, state legislation, dialogued relative to Catholic Social Teaching, and reached out to the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese. We continue to pursue a decision which reflects the best path for Carlow as a Catholic university.”
I can certainly get behind Carlow supporting universal healthcare, but I think that we should hold ourselves to a higher moral standard than telling our LGBT faculty and staff that their partners should look to the government for their care while heterosexual partners do not. In addition, there are stronger arguments in favor of giving the same-sex partners of Carlow faculty and staff the benefits of an opposite-sex
couple rather than denying them.
Pope Francis himself reportedly supported civil unions for gay couples in his native Argentina. According to the New York Times in 2010, when he was known as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis advocated to a meeting of bishops the support for civil unions as a compromise when Argentina was debating a law that allowed for same-sex marriage. He even reached out to a prominent gay rights leader who said the Pope told him that “homosexuals need to have recognized rights and that he supported civil unions, but not same-sex marriage.”
It also makes good business sense. If Carlow is going to attract top faculty and staff, and they happen to be gay, what happens if they have to make a decision between Carlow and Pitt or Carlow and Chatham? Both of those universities offer domestic partner benefits to their employees. If it comes down to a decision about benefits, why wouldn’t a potential hire go somewhere where their loved ones are treated with dignity and respect?
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, is the idea of social change. If you’re a first year student, you’re well aware of the push being made to integrate students with Carlow’s central theme of social justice and progress through the School for Social Change. On an issue such as benefits for same-sex partners of Carlow staff and faculty, it seems as if Dr. Mellon and the Board of Trustees have a decision to make. Is Carlow a School for Social Change or is Carlow a School for Social Change (As Long As the Bishops and Priests Are Okay With it)?