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UT SG Candidate Madison Gardner's Opposition to Domestic Partner Benefits Falls Outside Mainstream

by: Karl-Thomas Musselman

Wed Feb 22, 2012 at 11:00 AM CST

Over the next week, Burnt Orange Report will be returning to its roots. Born out of the University of Texas, we have covered internal student politics off and on over the years. From the Burnt Orange Report from the Floor series covering the minutia of Student Government meetings to the elections for Daily Texan Editor, along with hundreds of other posts over the past 9 years covering Student Government, we have an interest in alerting our readers when something important is happening on the 40 Acres. -KT

In just over a week's time, UT-Austin is holding its regular campus-wide elections. We would like to bring your attention to the top of the ticket Executive Alliances running for President and Vice-President of the student body. While there are 4 pairs running, (a 5th was disqualified from the ballot) there are 2 leading alliances which we would like to focus your attention on. The underdog campaign is the clearly progressive choice- Go Big Texas led by John Lawler & Terrence Maas, we'll talk more about them soon.

UT students should be concerned about the ticket being led by Madison Gardner. The Daily Texan fact checked a statement made by Gardner during his Editorial Board interview where he included UT Domestic Partner Benefits for employees as one of the issues for which he would lobby.

Madison Gardner Quote Opposing UT Domestic Partner Benefits

Turns out, Gardner opposed Domestic Partner Benefits for UT employees in his candidate questionnaire for At-Large Representative in 2010. The Texan even posted his original statement in writing. Here is the relevant question from the 2010 questionnaire.

Madison Gardner Opposed UT Domestic Partner Benefits for Employees in 2010

Now, some might feel that it is unfair of me to write this post based upon a single issue, but it is illustrative of the philosophical and political differences between Madison Gardner and John Lawler. And not just that, but Gardner's position on domestic partner benefits for UT employees is far outside the mainstream of the UT student body.

In December of 2009, Just months before Gardner wrote about not sacrificing his moral values, the Student Government Assembly voted on AR 26: In Opposition to the Denial of Competitive Benefits. It passed on a vote of 24-1-1, with no debate, and was signed by then student body president Liam O'Rourke. Would Gardner have vetoed the near unanimously supported resolution because of his strong moral values?

How far outside the mainstream is Gardner's position?  Here is a link to the results of how the UT student precincts voted on Proposition 2 in 2005 when Texas asked voters to ban "gay marriage," a far more controversial issue than employee domestic partner benefits. Across the city, students rejected the discriminatory measure at rates as high as 91%. In 2005!

At best, Madison Gardner is a flip-flopper, sacrificing his self stated strong moral beliefs as needed for political purposes. At worst, he is one of a very small handful of people that believe, in 2012, that same-sex employees of the University don't deserve equal access to basic health benefits.  

Longhorns deserve more than another pair of fraternity brothers representing the Campus Crusade for Christ and Texas Cowboys as the next UT student body President and Vice President. Thankfully students have another choice in John Lawler and his Go Big Texas campaign. We'll have more about his campaign in a follow up post later this week.

Voting takes place online between February 29 at 8 AM and March 1 at 5 PM.

While I never served as an elected student representative, I was a Student Government Agency Director of the then GLBTAAA, now QSA, under three separate Student Government administrations. I served on the Daily Texan's student endorsement panel, twice, spending 16 hours in the basement of the communications building, interviewing candidates after pouring over their questionnaires, and writing up well-reasoned endorsements.

Remember, Congressman Lloyd Doggett was elected Student Body President at UT in 1967. What starts here, changes the world. It is our duty to ensure that we start on the right foot- and change the world for the better.


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Partnership and marriage are different issues (3.00 / 1)
For more than 20 years, I have supported gay marriage. If two people want to share their lives in a loving union, society should respect their choice, regardless of their genders and sexual orientations. That's basic fairness.

Domestic partnerships are a whole other story. The bulk of domestic partnership benefits go to straight couples who have the right to marry, but have chosen not to. That's wrong! If you want the benefits of marriage, you should accept the responsibilities of marriage as well.

Conservatives often complain that gay marriage threatens the institution of traditional marriage. That's nonsense; having more loving couples unite only strengthens the idea of marriage! However, disconnecting the benefits of marriage from the responsibilities does undermine the institution. When nearly half of all American births occur out of wedlock, we need to recognise that marriage itself is in trouble. That's a serious social problem, and removing incentives for couples to get married only makes it worse.

I appreciate that for gay and lesbian couples, partnership benefits are the best they can get in a state that adamantly refuses them the right to marriage. It's an undignified kludge, but at least it's something, and maybe it's worth doing in some cases.

Still, it should only be used as a temporary fix. Whenever a state wakes up and allows gay marriage, institutions in that state should stop providing partnership benefits and insist that spousal benefits go only to spouses. Sadly, I don't see that happening anywhere.

P.S.  I'm not defending Madison Gardner's comments, which sound like "gay is bad" claptrap. I'm just saying that domestic partnerships should not be used as any kind of litmus test for open mindedness.  

The DP benefits (0.00 / 0)
In this case are mostly limited to health benefits and maybe housing depending what the UT Board of Regents could approve. It's about being competitive with other high ed institutions.

[ Parent ]
The scale of the benefits doesn't matter to the argument (5.00 / 1)
If the benefits are small, then they don't really affect how competitive we are. Besides, most faculty salaries are negotiated individually, so you can always compensate.

The real issue, on both sides, is a question of principle. Making it impossible for GLBT faculty to get benefits is offensive. Disconnecting marriage benefits from marriage is also offensive. Pick your poison.

For the record, I'm not strongly opposed to DP benefits, since the gay rights angle is important. I just believe that the marriage issue is more important.

Liberals like us need to pay more attention to supporting the social fabric. Minority communities in Texas do suffer from discrimination, from poverty, from lousy schools, and from a power structure that doesn't care. We rightly get incensed whenever the lege cuts out school funding or CHIP or when Congress puts tax cuts for the rich above jobs for the poor.

But minority communities also suffer from a lack of stable families. Too many children grow up without fathers. Too many teenagers get pregnant, messing up both their own lives and their children's. To the extent that the rest of us have influence (and it's fairly marginal), we need to encourage education, we need to encourage marriages with permanence, and we need to encourage the idea that the flip side of every right is a responsibility. All of that begins with the standards that we apply to ourselves.

If that sounds conservative, well maybe it is. Liberalism (belief in personal freedom) and conservatism (belief in institutions) aren't always in conflict. On some issues, like this and like defence of the Bill of Rights, they go hand-in-hand.  

[ Parent ]
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