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March 22, 2013 5:29 PM Texas: Where Anti-gay Meets Pro-business

By Daniel Luzer

Texas’s conservative social culture is running into its economic development efforts. And it’s happened, no big surprise, because of gay partner benefits.

The Texas insurance code currently does not allow the state’s public universities to offer benefits to the (unmarried) partners of university employees. A bill in the state legislature would change the code to allow “certain qualified individuals,” including same-sex partners of Texas professors, to qualify for benefits. That’s because the existing policy is becoming a problem. According to an article in the Daily Texan:

The McCombs School of Business [at the University of Texas at Austin] lost its top management candidate to Duke University because it was unable to offer benefits to the candidate’s partner, said Karen Landolt, director of the HireTexas interview center at the School of Undergraduate Studies. Landolt said incidents like this have happened multiple times at the University and each time reopening the search for faculty costs the University $6,000.
Landolt said because of the absence of plus-one benefits, fewer faculty members with same-sex partners are recruited to UT and this isolates LGBT students because they have fewer staff members they can relate to.

But it’s not just about human resources and how students feel. There’s a real economic development problem here:

The insurance code of the UT and A&M systems states that these schools must be competitive with private industry, and the education code requires these institutions be competitive with other higher education institutions, said Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas, an organization that lobbies the state on LGBT issues. Smith said because UT and A&M do not offer plus-one benefits, they are not in compliance with these codes.

Now that is, of course, just Smith’s interpretation. Texas courts would likely rule differently. But over the long term this could dramatically impact the talent Texas could attract. The business school at UT Austin, after all, doesn’t just train future Texas business owners; it also provides the state with business ideas. Other departments at UT and A&M make discoveries and patent products and ideas that help the state significantly. Many very talented academics and businessmen are gay. And many people who are not gay find the policy objectionable, and will seek employment elsewhere.

“This is ultimately all about competition,” Smith said. “Enabling this legislation, advancing this legislation would allow our two flagship institutions to be what they were intended to be, and that is leaders not only in the state but leaders across the country.”

Republican legislator John Smithee of Amarillo expressed concern about the proposed policy because it would “lower the bar for the selection of people covered by insurance.”

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer

Comments

  • boatboy_srq on March 25, 2013 10:23 AM:

    Is it possible this is a feature-not-bug effect? Keeping the "best and brightest" out of Texas will keep the students from being exposed to the proofs that the Reichwing ideals are out of sync with reality, which will make them easier to control; and it will make sure that businesses spawned from the Lone Star incubators won't develop unGawdly things like stem-cell-based medical treatments, clean-energy solutions or other enterprises the Reichwing won't countenance. As a side effect, it will help keep those Other people away from Texan education and businesses (and thus out of positions of power/authority in Texan communities). And it will encourage those Other people to take up professorships and entrepreneneurial positions in less rigidly Reichwing locales, which the Reichwing can mine for business solutions for themselves, for education for their 1%er offspring, and for propaganda gems to keep the oi polloi ignorant, subservient and enraged against Teh Gawdless Librul Soshulists. As a convenient tertiary effect, by encouraging the best-and-brightest to look elsewhere, they're keeping higher ed salaries down (after a fashion), which will work until they find they have to pay a premium just to get people to work and teach there.

    Captcha: halfazz time. Indeed.

  • D on March 25, 2013 12:33 PM:

    First, have to address Republican legislator John Smithee of Amarillo comment/concern that a policy providing same sex couples with medical insurance will “lower the bar for the selection of people covered by insurance.” Could someone please explain his comment (preferably you Mr. John Smithee). How ignorant are you? Didn't you have anyone advising you on what to say or how stupid this sounds? Or how you would even back a statement like that? It infuriates me when ignorant people are allowed to speak publicly.
    Second, is offering equal benefits to same sex partners really that difficult? Every state expects and requires equal participation in paying taxes, working and being productive individuals in society, obeying laws, etc., and yet treat us as less than when it comes to the basic necessities including health care?! How does this make any sense? This country is so behind the times and some of our elected officials appear to want to keep us this way. Time for a new generation to take office, to make the changes and to bring this Country into the 21st century.