ACLU Blasts Court Decision Denying Michigan Families Domestic Partner Benefits

May 07, 2008

Detroit -- The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan blasted a Michigan Supreme ruling today, which upheld a lower court’s decision that Proposal 2, passed by Michigan voters in 2004, prohibits public employers from offering domestic partner benefits. The majority opinion was written by Justice Steven Markman,which was joined by four other justices with a dissent written by Justice Marilyn Kelly and Justice Michael Cavanagh.

“This is a flawed and unfortunate decision.  The majority opinion ignored the multiple statements made during the ballot initiative campaign by its supporters that they did not intend to take away health care from families and children," said Kary L. Moss, ACLU of Michigan Executive Director.  “Nonetheless, the majority ignored the voters intent and interpreted the decision in the most harmful way possible.  It is unfortunate because no child should have their health care taken from them.  To minimize the harm of this decision, we will continue our work with public employers to revise their eligibility criteria in order to provide continued health insurance coverage.  We encourage Governor Granholm to do the same and negotiate such coverage with state employees.”

In April 2005, the ACLU of Michigan filed this lawsuit on behalf of 21 families in Ingham County Circuit Court seeking a declaratory ruling that Proposal 2, which amended the Michigan Constitution in November 2004 to prohibit gay marriage, allows public employers to offering health care insurance, otherwise called domestic partnership benefits, to lesbian and gay families.  A trial court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs but, in February 2007, the Michigan Court of Appeals overturned that decision.

The two groups that lead the campaign for passage of the amendment, Citizens for the Protection of Marriage and American Family Association of Michigan, both claimed that the amendment did not concern health benefits. CPM Campaign Director Marlene Elwell said: "This has nothing to do with taking benefits away. This is about marriage between a man and a woman."

“Proponents of the marriage amendment insisted for months that the language of the amendment concerned marriage only and would not affect the health benefits of hundreds of LGBT families in Michigan,” said Deborah Labelle, ACLU of Michigan Cooperating Attorney. “We should not allow their bait and switch tactics to define our state. All Michigan families should be treated with dignity and should not have to fear having their healthcare taken away.

The 21 families were represented by Labelle;  Jay Kaplan, ACLU of Michigan LGBT Project Staff Attorney; Michael Steinberg, ACLU of Michigan Legal Director; Moss and ACLU of Michigan Fund Cooperating Attorneys Thomas P. Wilczak, Barbara Eckert Buchanan, Kurt A. Kissling, Amanda J. Shelton, Roderick M. Hills, Jr. and Nancy S. Katz.

To read the Supreme Court decisions, go to https://www.aclumich.org/pdf/domesticbenefitsMSC.pdf

To read more about National Pride At Work v. Granholm, including the legal documents, go to http://www.aclumich.org/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=426