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Emory personnel policy condemned, defended

Produced by United Methodist News Service, official news agency of theUnited Methodist Church, with offices in Nashville, Tenn., New York, and Washington.

CONTACT: Joretta Purdue (Release #466) Sept. 19, 1996

United Methodist-related Emory University in Atlanta has responded to a reprimand approved in mid July by the church's Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference.

By a vote of 245-226, with 16 abstentions, the jurisdiction criticized the university's personnel policy that provides benefits to domestic partners of employees regardless of gender.

The Rev. Joe Peabody, superintendent of the church's Gainesville District inthe North Georgia Annual (regional) Conference, initiated the action, saying that he believed the university was "headed in the wrong direction."

According to the jurisdictional conference's Daily Christian Advocate, Peabody said he did not expect the university to change its policy because of the letter of reprimand.

In response to the jurisdictional conference's action, Emory President William M. Chace wrote to Bishop Robert C. Morgan, president of the jurisdiction's administrative council and a trustee of the university. Emory University public relations personnel provided a copy of the letter to the Reporter.

In the letter, Chace said that the university provides such benefits "because we believe it to be consistent both with our educational mission and with the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church.

"I would note that our policy on domestic partners does not assume that such partners are related to each other sexually. The policy says nothing about 'self-avowed practicing homosexuals' or, indeed, about sexuality at all. Nor does the policy seek to address the notion of ordination. Nor can the policy be construed as granting money to promote homosexuality."

Chace wrote that the university must not violate its own policy against discrimination. Further, he recalled the Book of Discipline's call to "treat homosexual persons justly."

"Insofar as employee benefits are 'civil liberties' that should be apportioned equitably, our policy comports with the Discipline's stand for 'simple justice in protecting ... such lawful claims typically attendant to contractual relationships which involve shared contributions, responsibilities, and liabilities, and equal protection before the law.'...."

In conclusion, Chace wrote, "Our decision is not one more slide farther down the slippery slope to perdition. It is, rather, part of the difficult pilgrimage that we are on together, through muddy and fog-shrouded terrain, toward a more just society guided by such light of grace as God has given us."

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