OPINION: Support for same-sex faculty benefits misguided

Throughout the fall semester, the powers that be at Mason have been trying to advance their vision of progress regarding LGBT rights.

In October, the Mason Faculty Senate approved a resolution calling for the expansion of partner benefits for same-sex couples employed at Mason.

At the start of November, President Ángel Cabrera echoed their sentiments, urging Virginia’s state government to expand the benefits for same-sex couples throughout the Commonwealth. The reasoning under- girding this support from above is marked with the usual claims for diversity and competitiveness.

The president’s website refers to the resolution as being for “university competiveness” and argues, like the resolution Faculty Senate passed, that the current status quo of no same-sex married couple benefits harms Mason’s “ability to compete to attract and retain a diverse and talented faculty.”

Yet Mason’s, and to an extent Virginia’s, competiveness and diversity are unharmed by not providing same-sex couple benefits.

Diversity is an easy point to refute because ultimately Mason is diverse by default. Mason’s campuses are concentrated in a part of the country that has a broad array of ethnicities and nationalities represented.

With the many amiable attributes Mason holds and its proximity to a large population center, Mason will likely never be in want of prospective students. With its resolution, the Faculty Senate and Cabrera are falsely assuming that competiveness will be achieved through expanding benefits to same-sex couples, ignoring the immense progress the former UVA satellite campus has made sans same-sex couple benefits.

To use another example, consider an academic entity like Liberty University. Given its ideological biases at the leadership level, Liberty will likely refuse to provide same- sex couple benefits until some hypothetical future state government compels them to do so.

Yet such a closed mind towards LGBT benefits has hardly stopped their progress. As reported by Mary Beth Marklein of USA Today, Liberty’s growth has been impressive.

“The cacophony of construction across the 7,000-acre campus it overlooks suggests that the once-struggling Christian college has not only arrived but also plans to stick around,” wrote Marklein in September.

And if Liberty seems too far distant an example of progress without LGBT benefits, consider some entities more directly connected to Mason. At the lowest level of SUB I there is a Chick-fil-A. Having a devout Southern Baptist leadership openly opposed to gay marriage has hardly inhibited their economic success story.

According to a report by the research company Sandelman & Associates, consumer usage of the chicken sandwich chain increased by 2.2 percent right after CEO Dan Cathy’s 2012 controversial remarks compared to the same period in 2011, with the chain also gaining on market share and ad awareness.

If anything, being opposed to gay marriage and its expansion of benefits aided the company’s competitiveness.

Next year, Mason will be opening a campus in Songdo, South Korea which will offer programs in economics and management. Strange that South Korea is considered competitive enough to garner attention from Mason when the country itself does not legally recognize same-sex marriage nor has passed anti-discrimination legislation for sexual minorities.

Having a population where the majority of citizens still consider homosexuality wrong has hardly halted investment from entities like Mason.

All in all, the call for expanding same-sex couple benefits in Virginia both for Mason and other for-profit entities is built upon the oft-repeated and seldom criticized claim that same-sex marriage recognition is good for the economy. It is, in the opinions of the sympathizer, part of the path to progress.

Yet there is strong evidence against such a claim. Consider CNBC’s “America’s Top States for Business 2012”, in which states with constitutional amendments banning same- sex marriage dominated the top ten.

The top were Texas, Utah, Virginia, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming and Georgia. Of them only Wyoming lacked an amendment. Wyoming, for the record, does not legally recognize gay marriage.

Iowa, whose activist court struck down its marriage definition law regarding same-sex couples years back, ranked number 12 and Massachusetts, the first state to legalize same- sex marriage, was number 28.

Odds are good other Virginia campuses will have administrative bodies supporting the expansion of benefits for same-sex couples in the Commonwealth. They will argue that they need these expansions to remain competitive and to foster diversity. However, for the past several decades, competition and diversity have thrived without said benefits existing.

We have not needed further endorsement of LGBT advocacy to succeed before and we will not need it in the modern day.

There are plenty of entities that have never caved to such ideas and yet continue to thrive. Just ask Liberty University, Chick-fil-A, South Korea and every high-ranking state on the CNBC’s list of best states for businesses.

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