Friday, August 27, 2010

Attacking gay couples in Wisconsin: cause for a brain drain?

The Marriage Equality battle is not and never has been limited to the M-word. Those opposed to marriage equality are often opposed to any legal recognition of GLBT rights. We saw this in Washington state, where the forces of evil tried to overturn a domestic partnership law. And now, yet again, in Wisconsin which outlaws both marriage and civil unions, but has a paltry little registry to give people a few rights, like hospital visits. But even that is too much for the forces of Hate:
A social conservative group filed a lawsuit ... challenging Wisconsin's domestic partner registry, arguing it is a violation of the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
"A reasonable person observing this registry would easily conclude that it is intended to mirror marriage,'' said Julaine Appling, president of Wisconsin Family Action, . ....

The registry's benefits do not come close to the rights that come with marriage, said Katie Belanger, executive director Fair Wisconsin, the state's largest gay rights group that lobbied lawmakers to approve the registry.

She said the registry extends 43 benefits compared with 200 for married couples under state law. "These are the most basic, critical things that couples need to have to take care of one another,'' Belanger said.....
And here I always thought Wisconsin was liberal.

A few years ago, Wisconsin passed a constitutional amendment banning both same sex marriage and civil unions. A suit was brought against this amendment, arguing that by law it could only do one thing at a time. However, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin upheld the amendment as legal. The debate, much like California's Prop8 case that was tried in STATE court, was not really about the SUBSTANCE of the amendment, but the PROCESS, and the result is that both marriages and civil unions remain illegal.

Previous efforts to preserve domestic partner benefits at the University of Wisconsin also failed . Like Michigan and Virginia, the Republicans in State Government relish denying any recognition to gay couples.

As I've commented before, academe is a pretty brutal marketplace. U Wisconsin-Madison, the flagship campus, has certainly lost faculty over this. There's a good article about GLBT faculty in Nature from 2008:
For many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender academics around the world, issues such as job security and peer support are top concerns. But a growing number are moving long distances, or out of academia altogether, on the basis of benefits often beyond an employer's power to grant.

The shift has created new tensions between public universities and their funding sources and has prompted fears, especially in the United States, of a brain drain to more accommodating places. .... liberal university towns in the Midwest are bidding farewell to top talent after recent state amendments blocked even straight domestic partnerships. Job-seekers have weeded out prospective employers for the same reason. Scientists from European and other countries are incorporating gay-friendly immigration laws into their decisions about where to work abroad.
Even straight faculty and students are put off by the bias expressed by the absence of partner benefits. And we're not just talking about a faculty member writing a few books and reflected prestige. In the experimental sciences, a professor with a vigorous research program can bring millions of dollars into the university in overhead, quite apart from the money that goes to the lab or pays salaries. Those overhead dollars are something no Dean wants to lose.

The "creative economy" that drives modern growth is gay-friendly. People don't want to be part of an anti-gay environment. Marriage equality correlates with economic growth. It's a good time for other universities to cherry-pick Wisconsin faculty, and potential faculty and students would do well to consider what sort of values they want around them.

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