Friday, July 10, 2009

I Wanted to Get Gay Married, But the WEA Changed Their Mind :-(

The very last item taken up at this year's Representative Assembly was an interesting motion regarding gay marriage/civil unions/the fall of civilization, depending on your viewpoint. It seemed fairly tame to me, an add on to an already existing continuing resolution about civil and human rights:

The Association further supports efforts by its members to reflect upon the hardships and legal uncertainties that occur when these factors are used to deny two individuals the ability to enter into a legally recognized domestic partnership, civil union, or gay marriage.

The Association further supports efforts by its members and society at large to engage in thoughtful and respectful conversations about marriage equality; the beliefs, values, and legal practicalities associated with it; and how it affects many of our memebrs and students and their respective families, loved ones, and friends.
It's not an endorsement of gay marriage, or even civil unions--it's a call to have a "respectful conversation" about the issue, which really shouldn't be that big a deal for a group of educators.

But oh boy, did this one go on for a long while. Very passionate, very articulate speeches on both sides of the issue, including memorable floor time from a member of WEA-Retired talking about her own life partner and the struggles they have regarding health care and travel. There were also conservative and Christian members (yes, there really is diversity of thought in the WEA) who spoke against, and they did it well.

First vote, too close to call. Then there was a rising vote, where people stand--again, too close to call. The doors to the hall were closed for yet another rising vote, again too close to call. Then each council voted individually and turned in their results to the chair, WEA President Mary Lindquist, at which point the motion was declared "Passed" by about a 30 point margin. Given that there were about 700 people in the hall at the time, that's close.

But wait, there's more! After RA let out they went back over the results, and one council's votes had been transposed. Turns out, the motion failed after all. I expect we'll see it again at the 2010 RA.

It's been expressed before that the WEA, and unions in general, really shouldn't get involved in issues like this--after all, the line of reasoning goes, what does something like civil unions have to do with education? The always-erudite Dr. Pezz expressed it better than I in a post from RA. I'm sensitive to that line of thought, especially when it relates to the PAC (as Dr. Pezz points out); the struggle that I have is that I think of the families that are in this situation, and how things are harder on them than need be.

Why yes, I am a liberal. How'd you tell? ;-)

All that said, my speaking request related to the motion didn't come up before debate was closed. I had a motion of my own: to table the main motion. That would have closed off debate and given Mary the power to close the RA, making no one happy, but sometimes when no one is happy you know you've accomplished something.

Later on, I'll tell you how I voted. A fun summer project might be to check out the list of continuing resolutions on the WEA website; it's a neat document with 1000 different stories behind it.

Do you think unions have a role in these kinds of societal discussions?



Blogger Dr Pezz said...

After a lot of thought I think this issue may be more pertinent than I first thought. The ramifications of benefits, pensions, visitations, etc. have made me think that the conversation needs to take place. Since the WEA (and the NEA) both state equality and civil rights as items supported, this is the next inevitable domino to fall.

This issue really did not come up at NEA (not directly any way), but reproductive rights did. I guess we got to see heated debate on a sensitive topic after all.

7:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Dr. Homeslice here. Went to the washington delegation at NEA, hoping to find you. WHat's up with you not going to NEA? You should go next year!

7:09 AM  
Blogger Ryan said...

Hey Dr. H, good to hear from you again! Getting to NEARA for me is all about making sure my wife won't kill me in my sleep when I leave her behind for a week with our 2 year old; maybe in a few years it'll be more feasible.

Dr. Pezz--the reproductive rights argument is another one that I wish the NEA would run away from as fast as they possibly can. Important? Probably, but madness that way lies.

Hope you're enjoying the summer!

10:19 AM  

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