Waldlaw Blog

Friday, February 02, 2007

Things Get Ugly in Michigan

Every once in a while, when I'm advising clients about how careful they need to be about protecting their families before venturing out into the world, I think I'm being paranoid. After all, it's 2007 and lesbian and gay families are all over the media and we've made a lot of progress, right? Then I see an article like this, and I remember why I have to advise clients to do seemingly ridiculous things like adopt their own legal children. WARNING: The following news article may contain material that is upsetting to anyone with a sense of justice (sorry, I couldn't resist) Court Of Appeals Voids Michigan Domestic Partner Benefits by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff Posted: February 2, 2007 - 11:00 am ET (Lansing, Michigan) The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled Friday that the state's constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage prevents public institutions from providing benefits to same-sex partners of employees. "We strongly disagree with the court's decision today and plan on appealing to the Michigan Supreme Court," said Kary Moss, Executive Director of the ACLU of Michigan. "It was never the intention of Michigan voters who approved the marriage amendment to take health care benefits away from Michigan families." Soon after the amendment was passed in 2004 Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D), acting on the advice of Attorney General Mike Cox (R), terminated domestic partner benefits that had been won by state unions. Cox also directed University of Michigan and Wayne State University and the city of Kalamazoo to shut down their benefits programs to same-sex couples. Twenty-two same-sex couples filed suit against the state in March. One partner of each of the 22 couples works for the state of Michigan. Although Granholm removed the benefits from the contracts she disagreed with Cox's interpretation of the amendment and in July she entered the case on the side of the gay couples. Cox was obligated to argue the case against benefits as Attorney General. In September 2005 Ingham County Circuit Judge Joyce Draganchuk said health care benefits are benefits of employment, not marriage (story) and Cox's office appealed. The three-judge Court of Appeal panel overturned Draganchuk's ruling. The constitutional amendment defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman and is the only agreement that can be recognized as a marriage "or similar union for any purpose." It was those six words that led to the legal battle. "The marriage amendment's plain language prohibits public employers from recognizing same-sex unions for any purpose," the court said.


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