“Those who wrote the (Marriage Protection Amendment) have said their primary intent was to define marriage as between one man and one woman. But Gary Glenn, president of the Midland-based American Family Association of Michigan, said last month that a secondary purpose was to make sure the definition is honored for any purpose, ‘including the provision of taxpayer-financed spousal benefits.'”
September 27, 2005
Judge rules gay couples can receive health insurance benefits
by David Eggert
The Associated Press
LANSING, Mich. — Public universities and governments can provide health insurance to the partners of gay employees without violating the Michigan constitution, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Ingham County Circuit Judge Joyce Draganchuk said the purpose of a 2004 constitutional amendment was to ban gay marriage and civil unions — not to keep public employers from offering benefits to gay employees.
“Health care benefits are not among the statutory rights or benefits of marriage,” she wrote, arguing that health insurance coverage is not limited to those who are married. “Health care benefits for a spouse are benefits of employment, not benefits of marriage.”
A measure passed by Michigan voters last November 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 a fight over benefits for gay couples.
Republican Attorney General Mike Cox issued a legal opinion in March saying the measure prohibited the city of Kalamazoo from providing domestic partner benefits in future contracts. But 21 gay couples who work for Kalamazoo, universities and the state filed a lawsuit challenging Cox’s interpretation.
Draganchuk ruled that criteria established by employers to qualify for same-sex benefits do not recognize a “union.”
“Civil unions are not recognized in this state,” she wrote. “Employer-defined criteria for the receipt of health care benefits cannot create a union where one does not exist.”
A disappointed Cox was reviewing the ruling and considering whether to appeal, a spokeswoman said.
Jay Kaplan, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, urged Cox to not “waste” taxpayer dollars on an appeal.
“The voters never intended to take away health insurance from families and their children,” he said.
The ruling could have an immediate impact on state employees. Last December, Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s administration decided not to offer benefits to same-sex couples — which were included in new labor contracts — until a court ruled on their legality.
Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd said Tuesday the “legal cloud has been lifted” and her administration would ask the state Civil Service Commission to approve domestic partner benefits quickly. The labor contracts are scheduled to begin in the fiscal year that starts Saturday.
Kalamazoo announced in April that it would discontinue benefits effective this January, absent a judicial ruling.
Those who wrote the amendment have said their primary intent was to define marriage as between one man and one woman. But Gary Glenn, president of the Midland-based American Family Association of Michigan, said last month that a secondary purpose was to make sure the definition is honored for any purpose, “including the provision of taxpayer-financed spousal benefits.”
Many observers expect the case to reach the Michigan Supreme Court.
The case is National Pride at Work Inc. v. Granholm and Cox
On the Net:
ACLU of Michigan: http://www.aclumich.org
Gov. Jennifer Granholm: http://www.michigan.gov/gov
Attorney General Mike Cox: http://www.michigan.gov/ag
American Family Association of Michigan: http://www.afamichigan.org