A private Christian university in Arizona has announced that it will now be extending employee benefits to lawfully married same-sex spouses of employees, but assured that it will continue to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, a school that was founded by Southern Baptists in 1949, issued a statement last Friday explaining that the school has altered its employee benefits package to include lawfully married same-sex couples.
After the United States Supreme Court ruling in June legalized same-sex marriage throughout the country, the institution evaluated its employee benefits policy and felt that in order to demonstrate "grace and compassion" toward married same-sex employees, employee benefits needed to be extended to their partners.
Although GCU is adding to a growing list of Christian colleges that are starting to extend benefits to same-sex couples, the press release asserts that the school will continue to espouse the biblical definition of marriage as being a sacred union of one man and one woman throughout its curriculums and classrooms.
"This decision should be interpreted as an act of good faith toward employees and their families whom the University does not view as pawns in the current cultural conflict," the press release states. "Rather, they are human beings who are loved by their Creator and worthy of the same value and dignity that we extend to others regardless of their personal values and convictions."
GCU's decision comes after the Arizona branch of the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to the university in August that argued that withholding benefits from same-sex couples is a form of discrimination and a violation of federal law. The letter was sent after GCU employees informed the ACLU about how they were being denied health insurance and other benefits.
"Some may judge GCU harshly for its decision to remain firmly rooted in traditional Christian convictions and steadfast in its commitment to the biblical view of marriage. Others may chastise the university for extending benefits to same-sex spouses because the decision can be misperceived as an implicit endorsement of non-Christian views," the GCU statement reads. "Both responses would fail to comprehend GCU's position adequately."
"At some points Christ infuriated religious leaders and at other points, He drew the wrath of secular authorities, yet He continued to minister to all without fail. If providing benefits to all who are legally married enables the university to continue ministering to its employees and their families within an increasingly complex cultural context, then we will gladly provide benefits," the release continues. "We hope that in doing so we will be permitted to withdraw from fruitless culture wars that tend to yield more heat than light and more hostility than genuine cultural engagement."
In July, Hope College, a small reformed liberal arts school in Holland, Michigan, also extended benefits to same-sex spouses of employees. Hope College President John Knapp asserted in a statement that the policy change does not mean the school will open its chapel for same-sex wedding ceremonies. Knapp asserted that the school will also continue to espouse the biblical definition of marriage.
Another Christian school, Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, extended employee benefits to same-sex spouses several years ago.
In September, two Christian colleges — Goshen College in Indiana and Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia – withdrew their memberships from the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities after they announced earlier this year that they would adjust their hiring procedures to allow for the hiring of gay professors and faculty.
Two other CCCU member schools, Union College in Tennessee and Oklahoma Wesleyan University, withdrew their memberships this summer because they felt the CCCU did not act swiftly to defend traditional marriage by revoking EMU and Goshen's memberships after those schools announced they would hire gay professors.