Domestic partner rally gets mixed support from campus

Tim Magaw

When President Lester Lefton walked up the steps in Risman Plaza yesterday, a group of about 15 students held up signs that read, “Support LGBT faculty,” “Gay Rights are Human Rights” and “Benefits now.”

Lefton acknowledged the group with a wave when one student yelled, “We want partner benefits!”

John Barham, co-founder of the Queer Liberation Front, said he was disappointed, but not surprised Lefton didn’t acknowledge the group more during the QLF’s domestic partner benefits rally yesterday in Risman Plaza.

“That just reinforces the fact that the administration is not willing to interact with students,” he said.

Linda Hermann, assistant to the president, said members of the QLF met with her and set up a meeting with Lefton in December. She said Lefton was in meetings yesterday and unavailable for comment about the rally.

Freshman exploratory major Nicholas Whaley was walking through Risman Plaza during the rally and stopped to see what was going on. He said he thought the rally was a good idea.

“I think it’s about time people celebrated more diversity instead of picking on others,” he said.

Whaley said he thinks the university should have partner benefits.

“If two people really love each other and they are employed, I think they should just in case somebody gets hurt,” he said.

Deborah Smith, associate professor of philosophy and member of Kent State’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors, stopped to visit with the students and offer her support. She said some faculty members have left the university because it doesn’t support domestic partner benefits, adding that the AAUP has been fighting for the benefits for 13 years.

“It’s clearly an issue in recruiting and retaining the best faculty and staff,” Smith said.

The International Socialist Organization joined the QLF for part of the domestic partner benefits rally.

“It’s part of our platform,” said Pablo Weishaupt, senior Spanish major and member of the ISO. “We’re a workers movement. Gay rights fall under the umbrella of what we stand for.”

April Templeman, vice chair of QLF and one of the group’s members who attended yesterday’s board of trustees meeting, said these benefits are important.

“Say (two people) are in a relationship and one person has benefits and the other doesn’t – gay or straight – how is the other person supposed to get them?” she said.

Templeman also said the benefits should be a product of employment.

“It’s ridiculous,” she said. “There’s no reason the university shouldn’t provide benefits.”

Danielle Flink, co-founder of QLF, said she would have liked to see more people at the rally, but she had doubts about the administration’s willingness to support the issue.

“If we filled this entire plaza, I still don’t think (the administration) would do anything about it,” she said.

Contact ethnic affairs reporter Tim Magaw at [email protected].