The University Record, May 23, 1994

President Duderstadt promises to move ahead with changes mandated by revision of Bylaw 14.06

By Mary Jo Frank

The University will move ahead with implementing changes mandated by a revision of Regents’ Bylaw 14.06, which now guarantees that students, staff or faculty members will not be discriminated against because they are lesbian, gay or bisexual, President James J. Duderstadt announced at last Friday’s Regents meeting.

“We intend to fulfill our responsibility to move ahead with the general policy approved last September,” he said. The president also promised to keep the Regents informed of the University’s progress in making changes, acknowledging that implementation issues will be complex, particularly as they affect benefits, University finances and law.

The seven Regents who voted in September to include sexual orientation as a protected category reaffirmed their decision by refusing to second motions introduced by Regent Deane Baker to reject the 14.06 Task Force report released April 11 and to remove “sexual orientation” from the bylaw.

Duderstadt thanked the 14.06 Task Force and its chair, School of Dentistry Dean J. Bernard Machen, for the group’s thoughtful discussion and report.

The task force recommended that any benefits extended to children and other dependents of employees’ spouses also be extended to children and other dependents of employees’ same-sex partners, and that same-sex couples be given access to family housing.

Regent Rebecca McGowan compared the Regents’ decision to include sexual orientation as a protected category to the decision made in 1870 to admit women to the University. “We’ve never looked back, we never will. It was a good decision. I think today’s decision is a good decision.”

Baker predicted that the revision of Bylaw 14.06 to include sexual orientation will be a “defining moment” in the University’s history.

“When the Regents added ‘sexual orientation’ to Bylaw 14.06, they accepted the premise that homosexual or lesbian sexual practices are equivalent to heterosexual sexual practices. That decision is viewed by the majority of Michigan’s electorate as wrong on the physiological, psychological, theological and moral levels,” Baker added.

Baker said many Michigan citizens consider the Regents decision “to be a direct attack on the American family—their families—because it undermines the family structure in moral and other terms.”

Regent Laurence B. Deitch, who objected to several of Baker’s assumptions and statements, said he resented Baker’s characterization of the Bylaw 14.06 revision as an attack on the family.

“Families come in all shapes, sizes and colors,” Deitch said. “What we judge in people is character.”

Deitch quoted a statement made at Thursday’s public comments session by Pamela T. Horne, director of orientation and campus information, who described herself as a resident of Scio Township, a woman who has been married for 20 years, a mother of two school-age daughters, and a practicing Christian.

Horne said: “Given my personal characteristics, it may not appear as if I have a stake in these issues. But I do have a stake, as does every citizen of Michigan. Whether we know it or not, we all have colleagues, friends, and relatives who are gay and lesbian. These are real persons of worth and dignity, but who are discriminated against not only by individuals, but by the institutions of our society. Let us not have the University of Michigan continue to be an institution which contributes to intolerance and exclusion, but rather one which leads in its commitment to respect, inclusion and fair treatment. Yes, I do have a stake—injustice to any one of us is injustice to us all.”

Baker and Regent Shirley M. McFee both reported receiving large volumes of letters and calls about the Bylaw 14.06 change.

“The Regents’ actions have saddened, angered and mobilized a spontaneous statewide movement seeking to negate the Regents’ action. ... To date that movement has generated more than 250 letters and nearly 4,000 petition signatures from around the state,” said Baker, who added this is the largest response he has received on any regental issue during his 23 years on the Board.

One of the most striking calls McFee received was from a woman who described herself as a Christian fundamentalist, morally opposed to homosexuality, but also the mother of a gay male college student. The woman told McFee that even though she is opposed to homosexuality, she wants her son to be able to develop personally and professionally without constant harassment and ridicule because of his sexual orientation.

McFee noted that the 14.06 Task Force report contains a series of recommendations that the president will need to review, perhaps revise and decide whether to implement.

Linking the 14.06 Task Force report and the recent report from the Flexible Benefits Advisory Committee, McFee said both deal with problems of dependency. The question of who is a dependent will eventually have to be dealt with, she added, so the University can better address who is eligible for benefits.