The House Health & Welfare Committee was considering Senate Bill 152, a bill which would prevent the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky from pursuing domestic partner benefit policies. As anyone who has been watching the seemingly endless string of meetings on SB 152 in Chairman Tom Burch's committee knows, the atmosphere of the meetings had been charged, and the debate intense.
Partisans on both sides of the issue had argued their case. Supporters of the bill called it an attempt to subvert the Marriage Amendment of 2004, and opponents charged that it was a thinly veiled attempt to legislate bigotry.
Then, Kathy Stein spoke up.
Until that point in last week's final meeting, the topic of discussion had been whether domestic partner benefit policies were constitutional, and how U of L's health insurance policy, which offers no subsidy for dependent family members, could possibly be effective in attracting top national talent. But in all of that discussion, one important issue had been completely ignored. One topic of conversation had been studiously avoided--the veritable 300 pound gorilla in the room. No one wanted to touch it. No one, that is, except Rep. Stein.
The issue of Tinky-Winky.
Cutting through all the irrelevant rhetoric, Stein addressed the issue head on. Here is her bold statement on this crucial subject:
I have a statement I am going to make in good faith, and it's going to be controversial, and it is going to be that, you know, I believe that in religion and in religious faith and in all the good things that come along with it, but I've gotten to the point in this General Assembly session that I resent The Family Foundation and what they are trying to do to make issues of fairness controversial issues. And I resent that we are listening to folks who, with a straight face, looked at America and said, don't let your children watch Tinky-Winky because he is gay. I find it ... it's a sad day in Kentucky when we are dealing with issues like that when you have to keep your children from seeing Tinky-Winky, and that was made as a straight comment. Thank you.Now, some may wonder what this has to do with the issue of domestic partnerships, and state university employee benefits policies, and whether the Constitution places any restrictions the ability of a state university to create a legal status similar to marriage. What, in short, was Rep. Stein referring to? And the answer, of course, is this:
We don't have a clue.
But then, we are obviously not as well-versed in Teletubby issues as Rep. Stein. Maybe she knows something the rest of us don't. Perhaps there are secret plans afoot of which we are completely ignorant.
Could we, for example, be looking forward to an influx of Teletubbies into the state, the result of the UK and UofL's increasing emphasis on diversity?
After all, Teletubbies, being androgynous, constitute the kind of talent pool Lee Todd and James Ramsey seem to find highly attractive for faculty and staff recruitment purposes: they are not married--that seems to be a plus--and they would appear to constitute a minority group. And if this is the case, we can see why Rep. Stein, known for championing the rights of the underrepresented, would be concerned about any bigotry directed toward them.
If Rep. Stein doesn't speak up for the Tinky-Winky's of the world, who will?
Yet Rep. Stein's comments make us wonder. Could there be some sort of Teletubby agenda? Could Tinky-Winky be only the first step in a much broader plan to subvert our universities? Who else might our children be bumping into between classes if we invite a flood of public television children's characters onto our college campuses? Big Bird? Snuffleupagus? Are these people going to start instituting Muppet Studies programs in our college curricula?
And, if so, could Barney be far behind?
On the other hand, this might not be so bad. Since the Kentucky Education Reform Act has produced such poor math students coming out of Kentucky high schools, it might help to incorporate songs like "A Great Day for Counting," and "One, Two, Buckle my Shoe" into our college math curricula. And, let's face it, now that Western civilization has become declassé in many of our humanities programs, why not spend a few minutes every class period singing "The Alphabet Song" and "Books are Fun"?
Not only that, just imagine what a few choruses of "Pennies in My Pocket" would to do spruce up those boring business classes.
Not all of Barney's repertoire would be appropriate in the brave new world of higher education that Todd and Ramsey have planned for Kentucky's institutions of higher learning, of course. "That Sounds Like an Opposite to Me," would obviously be considered heterosexist, and "Ole King Cole" would (no doubt about it) be judged far too patriarchal. But you've got to think there would be a renewed appreciation for old favorites such as "Look Both Ways."
And then there is one of our personal favorites: "The Land of Make Believe." Is there any particular reason they couldn't make this the school song at UK or UofL?
All this, of course, is a highly insensitive treatment of issues some people, like Kathy Stein, take very, very seriously. And we fully expect to be taken to task for it.
Probably in her next speech.