At least two Christian colleges are extending benefits to same-sex spouses of employees after last month’s Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.
Hope College in Holland, Michigan, made that decision public this week.
“In employment policy and practice, Hope College has always followed the state’s legal definition of marriage,” Hope College president John Knapp wrote in a statement to the college community. “Spouses are eligible for benefits, so long as their marriage is legally recognized by the State of Michigan.”
However, Hope’s chapel will only be available to weddings that “are consistent with [the Reformed Church in America’s] definition of marriage as ‘a joyful covenanting between a man and a woman,’” Knapp wrote. “This respects our enduring affiliation with the RCA, a relationship that is also reflected in the Board of Trustees’ Position Statement on Human Sexuality.”
The school’s 2011 position statement calls for “a life of chastity among the unmarried and the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman.” Hope will not “recognize or support” campus groups seeking to promote homosexuality, but aims to be a safe place for the discussion and teaching of human sexuality issues, according to the 2011 statement.
Knapp's letter to the campus acknowledged that the move to provide benefits to same-sex married couples could be controversial.
“Here at Hope College we are a family of Christians who hold diverse and often conflicting points of view,” Knapp wrote. “We understand that the new legal definition of marriage is an intensely heartfelt matter for many. We also recognize that not everyone will agree with decisions that have been made; that is to be expected.”
Belmont University, a nondenominational school in Nashville, also offer benefits to “all legally married couples,” university counsel Jason Rogers told CT. The school offered those benefits to legally married same-sex couples before the recent Supreme Court decision.
Belmont split from the Tennessee Baptist Convention in 2009 but requires its faculty and staff to uphold “Jesus as the Christ and as the measure of all things.” In 2011, the school added sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination policy, after a controversy involving its former women’s soccer coach.
Neither Hope nor Belmont is a member of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities.
After Indiana legalized same-sex marriage last fall, the University of Notre Dame and nearby Saint Mary’s immediately extended health care and other benefits to same-sex couples.
“Notre Dame is a Catholic university and endorses a Catholic view of marriage,” the university wrote in an email to the campus, according to the Associated Press. “However, it will follow the relevant civil law and begin to implement this change immediately.”
Leaders of some Christian schools fear that they could lose their tax-exempt status if they disagree with the legalization of same-sex marriage. Before the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on same-sex marriage, leaders of 74 Christian schools, colleges, and seminaries expressed their concerns to Congress.
Even so, few schools with evangelical ties are following in Notre Dame's footsteps.
In May, Baylor University revised its sexual misconduct policy to leave out language specifically banning homosexual acts, but still stands by the Baptist Faith and Message of 1963, spokesperson Lori Fogleman told CT.