Amendment One goes to a vote in less than 20 days, but UNC has yet to release any plans on whether it would alter policies to maintain benefits for faculty, staff and students if the referendum is approved.
A poll released by Public Policy Polling projects the amendment will pass on May 8. University spokesman Mike McFarland wrote in an email that it is too early to speculate on policy changes.
But Terri Phoenix, director of UNC’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Center, feels differently.
“How people are saying (the benefits) are not going to be impacted is beyond me,” Phoenix said.
“I have no idea why (the University is) not being more proactive to ensure all of our students, staff and faculty get to keep the benefits that exist,” Phoenix said. “It should be a priority.”
Amendment One would revise the North Carolina constitution to say that marriage between a man and a woman would be the only recognized legal domestic union.
As UNC is a public university, benefits it offers to couples who are not legally married might be canceled if eligibility criteria are not changed.
Some vulnerable benefits for same sex spouses and partners of students and employees include health insurance, on-campus housing and campus recreation memberships, Phoenix said.
Marty Pomerantz, director of campus recreation, wrote in an email that if Amendment One passes he would change eligibility requirements for memberships so that the change has no real effect.
Larry Hicks, director of housing and residential education, said while he doesn’t know what power he will have over potential impacts of Amendment One on housing, it will be discussed.
“Amendment One does have the potential for having serious implications in terms of staff and hiring, and we’ll just have to wait and see the outcome,” Hicks said.
“Serious illness leave,” which allows faculty to take paid leave if their unmarried partner of the same or opposite sex is seriously ill, is also under threat, Phoenix said.
Administrators’ main concern, which has been articulated by Chancellor Holden Thorp, is that if passed, Amendment One might damage student, faculty and staff retention and recruitment.
Among UNC peer institutions, two of 15 don’t offer the same benefits for same sex couples as opposite sex couples.
On Friday, the Faculty Council passed a resolution that did not take a position on the proposed amendment, but reaffirmed UNC’s commitment to equality of opportunity.
Christopher Putney, interim director of sexuality studies, said he is unsure of how UNC would react to the amendment.
“I can’t say, but I’m optimistic.”
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