John Myers received his B.S. degree in journalism from Auburn University. He is a member of the staff of Christian Leadership Ministries where he is the editor for The Real Issue and is responsible for a number of other publications. He and his wife have two children and live in the Dallas area.
At least 13 universities in the U.S. have done it, including Harvard, Yale, MIT and Stanford. The College of William and Mary almost did it, except for the focused effort of Christian faculty.
It was Tuesday, October 20, 1993, and another memo to faculty at the nation's second oldest college passed across the desk of Dr. Ken Petzinger, professor of physics. He glanced at it and was about to toss it aside when a phrase caught his eye:
RE: HEALTH CARE BENEFITS FOR SPOUSES & FAMILIES OF GAY & LESBIAN EMPLOYEES
The memo was a notice of proposed resolution for vote before the Faculty Assembly the next Tuesday - only a week away.
Recently, the issue of health care benefits for partners of homosexual employees has been pushed by the gay community. Several large corporations and universities have adopted the policy. In the case of William and Mary, the request for coverage was initiated by five openly gay members of the college.
Two days after receiving the memo, Petzinger brought up the health benefits issue at a biweekly meeting of Christian faculty.
"At that time, no one had even noticed the memo," said Petzinger. "But we decided together that we had to do something, without knowing what that might be."
Petzinger called Christian Leadership Ministries' national office in Dallas that day to request information to help in defeating the proposed resolution. CLM sent a packet overnight which included an in-depth paper on the homosexual agenda by Tony Marco, organizer of the successful Amendment Two campaign in Colorado.
Petzinger also met with local experts on the gay agenda, and talked with other faculty and CLM staff around the country who had handled similar issues. Although almost all of these contacts were Christian, it became clear that the resolution had to be opposed without appealing to Christian ethics. Almost overnight he built up a thick file dealing with the dynamics of the gay agenda.
Petzinger's file included a letter written to the Office of Affirmative Action outlining the initial proposal. It had been written by Dr. George Greenia, a professor of modern languages.
The letter argued that since the school had recently (in 1990) adopted a non-discrimination policy which included sexual orientation, it "should carry to fulfillment its commitment to avoid all discrimination based on sexual orientation" and officially recognize gay partners as spouses.
Greenia emphasized how the adoption of that policy in 1990 resulted in at least five other Virginia colleges following suit, which would probably also be the case with the health care issue.
In his conclusion, Greenia stated, "We would hope that this matter can be discussed and moved forward without unnecessary publicity or controversy."
Over the weekend, Petzinger poured over the information he had gathered and "by Monday I had kind of a preliminary draft of what I thought I'd like to see in a petition against the resolution," he explained. "Then I began calling people to meet Monday night to revise and finalize a petition to be circulated the next day."
Tuesday morning, with only a few hours left before the vote, Petzinger and others went from department to department trying to find signers for their petition against the resolution.
"Basically, if there was someone in an office, I knocked on the door and told them what was going on," Petzinger related. "And I didn't find anyone who knew what was happening. Most people had just filed the memo in their circular file."
With their 28 signed petitions in hand, Petzinger and three others went to the assembly meeting that afternoon. After Greenia and the affirmative action director spoke, Petzinger had opportunity to voice the opposition of those who had signed the petition.
"I first stated our concern about the secrecy in which this entire issue had been cloaked," he said. "If you are a representative body you have to represent someone." It turned out that the motion had been worked on for more than a year by a relatively small number of people.
The argument of the petition centered around two basic issues: legality and funding. Petzinger explained first that Virginia did not recognize same sex marriages, and "there is no state right, nor is there a federal or constitutional right involved in this request. Rather than enforcing state law, this is an attempt to evade it."
He then noted that since William and Mary was a state school, and since the state did not recognize homosexual marriages, it would not fund such health care benefits with public money. This meant that unrestricted private funds would have to be used.
"The motion said nothing about how the policy would be funded," Petzinger said, "and that was one of its weak points. Our petition pointed out that the motion would unfairly single out homosexuals to benefit from funds which could be used for many other valid needs."
When he had finished, there were several questions from the floor, including what he personally felt about sodomy.
"I didn't respond to that," he said. "It was important to keep the discussion on the points we addressed in our petition."
When the motion finally came to a vote, the proposal to fund the health care benefits passed by 22 to 3. It was then sent to the president's office where it would either be vetoed or adopted.
"Even though we lost by a lopsided margin, I never felt defeated," Petzinger explained later. "I knew many people had prayed about this, and I knew their prayers had been and would be answered. I always felt the arguments against private funding for such benefits were quite compelling, and we should continue to press our case."
Later, the president of the assembly complimented Petzinger and others in the way the matter had been handled.
"It was a welcome comment," Petzinger recalled, "because the means we use to achieve our goals, as well as the final result, must honor God."
After writing to the president and promising him the public support of a substantial number of faculty members should he deny the funding, he and others settled back to await a decision.
Surprisingly, the issue never appeared in any form in a school or local newspaper. "It was always handled so quietly," Petzinger remarked. "The silence was almost unnerving."
Nevertheless, by early January of this year, the president had made his decision, and sent a letter to the assembly detailing his position.
He vetoed the measure.
In his letter, President Timothy Sullivan stated he was not prepared to cover gay dependents "through the use of our limited unrestricted private funds," and believed "that this is a matter best addressed comprehensively and at the state level."
"In large measure, the decision was consistent with the position we had advocated," Petzinger said.
Immediately, gay advocates stated publicly they would send the issue to the state faculty senate for consideration. This move gained the attention of the media and soon statements from the governor and at least one senator were made in newspapers which made it clear that health coverage for gay dependents would not be considered at the state level.
"Read your mail," Petzinger advises faculty as he looks back on his own experience, "and, along with other Christian professors, take responsibility in the governance of your school.
"I hope the example set at William and Mary will have a positive influence upon deliberations elsewhere."