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Same-sex couples to receive benefits

| Thursday, October 16, 2014

Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s will extend benefits to all legally married spouses of employees, including same-sex spouses.

Notre Dame’s Office of Human Resources sent an e-mail to “benefit-eligible faculty and staff” with the announcement Oct. 9.

“On Monday [Oct. 6], the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear appeals from decisions striking down bans on same-sex marriage in several states, including Indiana. This means that the law in Indiana now recognizes same-sex marriages and the University will extend benefits to all legally married spouses, including same-sex spouses,” the e-mail stated. “Notre Dame is a Catholic university and endorses a Catholic view of marriage. However, it will follow the relevant civil law and begin to implement this change immediately.”

Saint Mary’s also announced that it will comply with the new state law.

“Saint Mary’s College’s interpretation is that, as an employer in Indiana, the College must abide by the law and enroll legally married, same-sex spouses of faculty and staff in its insurance benefits if requested by a College employee,” Richard Nugent, director of human resources and college counsel at Saint Mary’s, said.

The cost of providing health insurance to employees at both institutions will increase, but the number of new persons that will be covered by the institutions remains to be seen, Nugent said.

Paul Browne, vice president of public affairs and communications for Notre Dame, said prior to the extension of benefits last week, approximately 2,700 spouses of Notre Dame employees were covered.

“It’s unknown right now how many will be added as a result of the extension of benefits,” Browne said. “It will become clearer as newly covered employees sign up for benefits.”

Reactions from the Notre Dame community to the extension of benefits have been mixed.

“This decision makes me feel respected and valued by the University. Especially now that the benefits of marriage have been extended to gay couples in Indiana, Notre Dame’s proactivity is welcomed and appreciated,” Aaron Nichols, audience development program manager for Shakespeare at Notre Dame and an out staff member, said.

The decision, while having substantial symbolic meaning, also has significant practical implications, Maureen Lafferty, assistant director of the University Counseling Center and an out staff member, said.

“This decision has very important practical benefits for GLBTQ families who may breathe easier due to access to medical insurance coverage — it’s a wonderful way to support families,” Lafferty said. “Respect for diversity is also a core value for the kind of institution that Notre Dame strives to be — a top-tier institution in a global marketplace.

“Notre Dame describes its commitment to diversity as a ‘moral and intellectual necessity’ and calls us to cultivate a diverse community,” she said. “This action feels consistent with those values.”

Lafferty said that she believes this decision will help Notre Dame become a more inclusive place.

“GLBTQ faculty and staff members and their families will no doubt feel a greater sense of support and belonging, which is always a good thing,” she said. “Faculty and staff may also feel safer to be ‘out’ on campus, which enables them to provide valued mentoring for diverse students.

“This decision can also communicate to the world at large that respect for diversity is a core University value, which can be very attractive to potential faculty, staff and students,” Lafferty said.

Nichols said he hopes the University’s decision will help those within the LGBT community gain acceptance within the broader Notre Dame network.

“There is, and will continue to be, people of faith who believe my sexual orientation is a personal choice that God condemns,” Nichols said. “I hope these individuals will see their LGBT brothers and sisters through the lens of our University’s loving and empathetic stance.”

Other members of the Notre Dame community, however, expressed displeasure with the University’s extension of health insurance benefits to same-sex spouses.

“This is a very sad development for Notre Dame. The haste with which it was done and its being announced without serious consideration of the legal implications is not only deeply troubling but also revelatory of the direction of the current Notre Dame administration,” Fr. Bill Miscamble, professor of history, said. “Notre Dame has made no effort to stand for the truth about marriage but has supinely conformed to a deeply flawed understanding of the crucial institution of marriage.”

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese issued a statement on the matter Tuesday, voicing the need for Notre Dame to follow Catholic teaching.

“In announcing its decision to extend benefits to ‘same-sex spouses,’ I am glad that Notre Dame affirmed that as a Catholic university, it ‘endorses a Catholic view of marriage,’ though I would say that Catholic teaching on the heterosexual nature of marriage is more than ‘a view,’” Rhoades said. “The heterosexual nature of marriage is an objective truth known by right reason and revelation.

“As a Catholic university, it is important that Notre Dame continues to affirm its fidelity to Catholic teaching on the true nature of marriage as a union of one man and one woman.”

The mission of the University, however, is one of inclusion and love, and this decision furthers Notre Dame toward better carrying out that goal, University President Fr. John Jenkins said.

“Apart from these questions and any legal obligations, however, we recognize an urgent call to welcome, support and cherish gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, who have been too often marginalized and even ostracized, and many of whom bear the scars of such treatment,” Jenkins said. “At Notre Dame, we have undertaken initiatives to provide support and welcome gay and lesbian members of our community. These efforts must not and will not flag.”

“Our abiding goal, rather, is to learn better how to love one another and together build a less imperfect community of love,” he said. “That is the mission of Notre Dame, and we remain committed to it.”

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About Kayla Mullen

Kayla is a senior political science major and the Managing Editor of The Observer. She hails from Philadelphia, PA and was previously a resident of Howard Hall.

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  • heh

    I had Fr. Miscamble for a class. A little surprised to see his fundamental misunderstanding of how the law works. Not too surprised he wants to withhold civil rights from legally married people based on his personal religious views.


  • dcmddem40

    “Our abiding goal, rather, is to learn better how to love one another and together build a less imperfect community of love,” he said. “That is the mission of Notre Dame, and we remain committed to it.”

    Well said Fr. Jenkins! It has been a long time since I could be proud of my school especially after the hate filled cartoon from the Observer 4 or 5 years ago. How far Notre Dame has come. I had goose bumps reading what Fr. Jenkins wrote.

    This Fr. Bill Miscamble, a professor of history, unfortunately supports the history of hate and intolerance. Just because something was in the past, does not make it right. At a University, we are taught to question, to think, respect others and different ideas and try to make a better place of where we live. Isn’t that what religion is after all? Religion calls us to become better men and women, more than we could ever imagine for ourselves.

    Fr. Jenkins has it right and I am proud of him and the University of Notre Dame!

    • NDaniels

      As the mother of a daughter who developed a same-sex sexual attraction as the result of the perfect storm, I Love my daughter, as I Love all my children, and desire that she, like all my children learn to develop healthy and Holy relationships and friendships that are respectful of herself and others, in private and in public. Condoning any act, including any sexual act, that does not respect our Dignity as human persons is not, and can never be an act of Love. To no longer affirm that in order to be married, it is necessary to exist in relationship as husband and wife, is to condone marriage fraud and adultery. How can one be affirming fidelity to Catholic teaching and God’s intention for Marriage and The Family, while identifying persons as objects of sexual desire/orientation, and denying God’s intention for creating us male and female? How can one be supporting The Sacrament of Marriage, while condoning marriage fraud and adultery simultaneously? How is the decision to condone marriage fraud and adultery one of inclusion and Love?

      • Wondering

        Out of curiosity, what is this “perfect storm” you speak of? Science hasn’t found the determinants of sexual orientation with 100% certainty, but it seems to be a combination of nature (genetics) and nurture (how she was raised).

        • NDaniels

          There is absolutely no scientific evidence that one’s sexual desire/inclinations are immutable, in fact, one can just google overcoming same-sex sexual attraction for testimony from those men and women who have become transformed.
          There are events and unhealthy relationships that led to the creation of the perfect storm for my daughter, including a sexual assault during her freshman year of college from a young man she knew and trusted, friends who, when my daughter continued to suffer trauma from the assault, suggested perhaps she is “gay”, and the inability to receive the proper guidance from her Catholic Jesuit University, which served, in my daughter’s case, as a means to affirm a same-sex sexual attraction identity, and had no desire to help her to overcome her disordered sexual attraction, so she could develop healthy relationships and friendships that were respectful of herself and others, in private and in public and thus grounded in authentic Love.

          • Wondering

            Testimonials on a website for a “gay conversion program” trying to make money are always going to be biased; people will make fake testimonials or lie and say they work so the company can make money. Unbiased literature reviews of these kinds of programs show that they don’t actually work: http://www.drdoughaldeman.com/doc/Practice%26Ethics.pdf The REAL evidence shows that sexual orientation can’t be changed.

            I would hope that you would be more supportive and understanding of your daughter’s struggle to come to terms with her sexual orientation, considering that you and your spouse are the reason that she is this way. YOU were the nature and nurture that made her this way – you gave her your genes, you raised her. Her sexual orientation were determined long before she was an adult, and it is unfair of you to blame her and her school for something she had no control over.

            Also, sexual assault is serious and traumatic for victims. I’m sorry your daughter had to experience this. I am sorry that you think the worst part of this is that it “made her gay” (which it didn’t); I’m sorry that you care more about her sexual orientation than her mental health and well-being.

          • NDaniels

            Your attempt to give personhood to sexual desire/inclination makes it appear as if you do not believe God knew what He Was doing when He created us male and female.

            While it is true we all have disordered inclinations of various kind and degree, some more difficult to overcome than others, there is no evidence that our disordered desires are immutable.

            There is no such gene as an adultery gene. All persons have the inherent right to experience authentic Love.


          • BLuis

            I hope everyone realizes that religion is the reason we are in war, religion is the reason poor people stay poor, and that religion is the reason for opression

          • NDaniels

            Atheistic materialism is the aggressor, for in denying God, atheist materialist objectify personhood, and thus deny our Dignity as human persons.
            Man is not an end in himself, nor is man a means to an end. From the moment of our creation, at conception, every son and daughter of a human person has been created to live in Loving relationship with one another, in communion with God, Who Willed us worthy of Redemption.


          • Frank Brandon

            I also hope everyone realizes you are an idiot.

          • Smile!

            What you do with your body is related to your mental health and well-being. You can’t heal the one without healing the other.

      • Hen

        Oh my. You’re a terrible mother. I feel bad for your daughter.

        There’s absolutely nothing wrong with her sexuality. The sooner she realizes that and gets you out of her life, the better.

        • NDaniels

          Desiring that all my children develop healthy and Holy relationships that are respectful of themselves and others and thus grounded in authentic Love, does not make me a terrible mother.

          • Hen

            Your definition of love is wrong, and hence you are you are unable to be a loving mother. Thus, you are also a terrible mother.

            I hope you get the help you need. For your daughters well being.

            Your posts on this article also affirm that you are crazy. You are the one with the problem, not your daughter.

        • Smile!

          Sometimes a mother has to tell her children things that they don’t want to hear, that is real love. She is great mother!

    • justfeddup

      “At a University, we are taught to question, to think, respect others
      and different ideas and try to make a better place of where we live”

      Unless you are at Marquette. Case settled, “Lot let them Know your guests”.

  • NDaniels

    It is Christ Who defines Love, not Caesar.

  • NDaniels

    With all due respect to Father John, the goal of every Catholic and Catholic Institution, is to Love one another according to The Word of God, The Truth of Love. One cannot be in a valid/legal marriage to begin with, if a couple does not have the ability and desire to exist in relationship as husband and wife. To sanction the identification of a same-sex sexual relationships as a marriage, is to condone marriage fraud and the sin of adultery. Condoning and affirming the act of adultery, is not, and can never be, an act of Love. Love is ordered to the personal and relational inherent Dignity of the human person, who is not, in essence, an object of sexual desire/orientation, but a son, daughter, brother, sister, husband, wife, father, mother.

  • NDaniels


    Our call to Holiness, is a call to be chaste in our thoughts, in our words and in our deeds. While it is true that all of us have the vocation to Love, Love is not possessive, nor is it coercive, nor does it serve to manipulate for the sake of self-gratification; Love serves for the Good of oneself and one’s beloved.
    One cannot condone the redefining of man as an object of sexual desire/orientation, and/or, the HHS contraception mandate, and/or, the removal of the necessary requirement for a valid marriage which is the ability and desire to exist in relationship as husband and wife, without condoning marriage fraud and the sin regarding lust and adultery.

  • Frank Brandon

    The Church isn’t denying anyone anything. If you don’t like the Catholic Church because you disagree with it’s teachings, then leave, but don’t try to change the Church.

  • Smile!

    Our bodies tell us the truth, our bodies are not made for homosexual acts.