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May 13, 1999


Marriage is the issue when it comes to health benefits

(Editor's note: A copy of the following letter to Pitt's Board of Trustees was sent to the University Times for publication.)

To the University of Pittsburgh Board of Trustees:

I feel that many people are missing the boat on the issue about Pitt's not paying medical benefits for homosexual couples. The issue is not discrimination, but rather, what is "marriage." Marriage is a special institution which is cross-cultural and timeless. Every nation recognizes marriage, and history books do not try to put a date on its origins. The uniqueness of marriage is recognized by the government, the church, and by the friends and relatives. Observe that the IRS recognizes marriage, and look at the gifts given by the friends and family to the bride and groom on their wedding day. Marriage is not simply a piece of paper, nor is it simply love and sharing a bed. Love and sharing a bed is the subject of countless movies, songs and novels, but by itself is not given special rights. Not giving medical benefits to homosexual lovers is not "discrimination," but is rather recognizing the uniqueness of marriage.

The second question which should be asked is why do corporations offer medical benefits to an employee's spouse and children in the first place? Why not offer the medical benefits only to the employee? The reason is because corporations realize that the institution of marriage is older and stronger than the corporation itself. They know that without family benefits, the employee would probably go work elsewhere. Most employees would take a cut in salary just to have their family's health benefits covered. Employee family benefits are not given because corporations are nice, but rather to keep their employees from jumping ship. On the other hand, giving medical benefits to a lesbian's lover opens unlimited possibilities. Why not give benefits to every couple that sleeps together, or why not to roommates who live together, but don't have a sexual relationship? Why discriminate against heterosexuals and non-sexuals? The rebuttal commonly given is that heterosexuals could get married. But why don't they? The reason all sexual partners don't get married is that consciously or subconsciously they recognize the uniqueness of marriage. Marriage is not for everyone, and it is more than a piece of paper. The institution of marriage transcends all nations, all cultures, all religions, and all history, and so is given special recognition by other institutions.

T. David Burleigh

Research Associate Professor

Department of Materials Science and Engineering

School of Engineering


Social work faculty urge extension of health benefits

To the editor:

The faculty of the School of Social Work, by unanimous vote of those attending the April 21 faculty meeting, express our support of the resolution passed by the Faculty Assemby on April 6, 1999, and by the Senate Council on April 12, 1999. In accord with the University's stated commitment to equality of opportunity, human dignity and racial, ethnic and cultural diversity and the School of Social Work's mission to maximize human development, human dignity, social justice and social equity for diverse populations, we join the Faculty Assembly and the Senate Council in urging the University of Pittsburgh administration to drop its challenge to the jurisdiction and authority of the City of Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations Act and to conform to its own stated policy on non-discrimination by offering health benefits to domestic partners who fit criteria described in University Policy 07-06-08.

Edward W. Sites, Professor

Sandra Wexler, Assistant Professor

School of Social Work

(Editor's note: This letter was signed by 19 other faculty members in the School of Social Work.)

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