Friday, February 02, 2007

Michigan court: No same-sex benefits

Michigan court: No same-sex benefits
Copyright by The Associated Press
Fri Feb 2, 12:33 PM ET

Public universities and state and local governments would violate the state constitution by providing health insurance to the partners of gay employees, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled Friday.

A three-judge panel said a 2004 voter-approved ban on gay marriage also applies to same-sex domestic partner benefits. The decision reverses a 2005 ruling from an Ingham County judge who said universities and governments could provide the benefits.

"The marriage amendment's plain language prohibits public employers from recognizing same-sex unions for any purpose," the court wrote.

A constitutional amendment passed by Michigan voters in November 2004 made the union between a man and a woman the only agreement recognized as a marriage "or similar union for any purpose." Those six words led to the court fight over benefits for gay couples.

Gay couples and others had argued that the public intended to ban gay marriage but not block benefits for unmarried opposite sex or same-sex domestic partners.

The appeals court agreed with the Michigan attorney general, Republican Mike Cox, who said in a March 2005 opinion that same-sex benefits are not allowed in a state that does not recognize same-sex unions.

The legal challenge was mounted by 21 gay couples who work for the city of Kalamazoo , universities and the state.

"The protection of the institution of marriage is a long-standing public policy and tradition in the law of Michigan ," Judges Kurtis Wilder, Joel Hoekstra and Brian Zahra noted In the unanimous ruling.

Jeffrey Montgomery, executive director of the Triangle Foundation, a leading gay and lesbian advocacy group in Michigan , said the legal sanctity of marriage was not in question.

"This ruling will result in families being robbed of their health care and other basic necessities that are fundamental to protecting their well being," he said.

The case will be appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court, said Jay Kaplan, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.

"We're very disappointed by this result," he said. "It's a misguided analysis, and they produced a heartless result. It was never the voters' intention in 2004 to take away health insurance benefits from families and children."


Blogger Tom said...

Message sent to all University of Michigan Faculty and Staff on 2/2/07 @ 7:59 PM:

From: Laurita Thomas, Associate Vice President and Chief Human Resouce Officer
Sent: Fri 2/2/2007 7:59 PM
To: "U-M Faculty and Staff"
Subject: Court ruling on Employee Benefits


In 2004 the voters in Michigan approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as "a union between one man and one woman." A lawsuit was brought against the state by the ACLU and others to clarify whether the amendment prohibits public institutions from offering health benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of employees. In 2005, the Ingham Circuit Court ruled that the amendment did not prohibit such benefits.

However, today the Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled that the marriage amendment "prohibits public employers from recognizing same-sex unions for any purpose," including the provision of employee health benefits. We are deeply disappointed by this ruling. It is our understanding that the ACLU plans to appeal this decision to the Michigan Supreme Court and seek an immediate stay while the case is appealed. We will continue to support these efforts.

In addition, the law allows us to honor our commitments to provide agreed-upon benefits through the end of the calendar year, or through the end of the current contract for bargained-for employee groups.

As an employer, we offer benefits to our employees and their dependents in order to recruit and retain the very best faculty and staff. Our benefits program allows us to be competitive with peer institutions, including private universities, across the country. It also clearly demonstrates our commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment for all members of our community. We will continue to promote access to health benefits for our employees and their families.

6:27 PM  

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