Amendment co-author files amicus brief Wednesday
Marriage amendment bans recognition of homosexual relationships “for any purpose,”
including benefits, group tells appeals court
Benefit plans offered broadly to all employees still allowed
LANSING — A Marriage Protection Amendment approved by nearly 60 percent of Michigan voters in 2004 prohibits government from recognizing homosexual relationships as equal or similar to marriage for any purpose, including as a basis for providing taxpayer-financed benefits to government employees, the family values group that first proposed and co-authored the amendment told a state Court of Appeals Wednesday.
The American Family Association of Michigan, in an “amicus” brief filed with the court, joined Attorney General Mike Cox in asking the Court of Appeals to overturn a decision by Circuit Court Judge Joyce Draganchuk, who ruled in 2005 that the amendment does not affect “domestic partner” benefit plans based on government recognition of homosexual relationships. Draganchuk’s ruling was expected following endorsement of her 2004 election campaign by two homosexual activist political action committees.
AFA-Michigan’s brief documented that prior to the 2004 election, prominent spokesmen on both sides of the issue repeatedly told voters that the amendment would eliminate public employee benefits specifically based on government recognition of homosexual or other “domestic partnerships.”
Those prominent voices included the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, which filed the lawsuit before the court challenging the amendment, the Triangle Foundation, a Detroit homosexual activist group, and Between the Lines, a Detroit homosexual newsmagazine, Gov. Jennifer Granholm, the Michigan Education Association, the Michigan AFL-CIO, all of whom now argue in court that the amendment does not affect “domestic partner” benefits, as well as editorials published by nearly every daily newspaper in the state.
The Coalition for a Fair Michigan, the registered campaign committee that opposed the amendment, also told voters that approval of the amendment would eliminate so-called “domestic partner” benefits. Strikingly, the brief cites a news release issued by the Coalition praising AFA-Michigan President Gary Glenn for publicly agreeing prior to the election that the amendment would prohibit any public employee benefits based specifically on recognizing homosexual relationships as equal or similar to marriage.
In light of the overwhelming evidence we’ve provided the court documenting amendment opponents’ brazen falsehoods and flip-flops in this case, if I were the ACLU, I’d be embarrassed to even show up,” Glenn said Wednesday upon filing the brief in person with the Court of Appeals in Lansing.
AFA-Michigan argued in its brief that “the issue before the court is one of government recognition, not government benefits.”
Glenn explained that while the amendment’s language plainly prohibits public employee benefits that are specifically based on government recognition of homosexual relationships, nothing about the amendment prohibits public employees involved in such relationships from receiving benefits as part of a broader plan available to all employees — in other words, benefits not based in any way on a government employer’s singling out or recognizing homosexual “domestic partnerships” or other relationships.
AFA-Michigan’s brief cites, for example, a current proposal by the labor union representing graduate employees at the University of Michigan as the type of benefits plan that could constitutionally include but not be limited to public employees involved in homosexual relationships. The union’s proposed “designated beneficiary” plan would “allow (union) members to insure an additional adult without regard to marital or partner status,” according to a report by Between the Lines.
“Government employers currently don’t let an employee put her sick grandmother — or a friend with no healthcare — on her government insurance, so how do they justify singling out only employees involved in homosexual relationships for special treatment?” Glenn asked upon filing the brief. “The answer is obvious. They argue that homosexual ‘domestic partnerships’ deserve benefits at taxpayers’ expense because they’re similar to marriage, and that government should recognize that.”
“Plainly, that argument is specifically what the Marriage Protection Amendment prohibits regarding any relationship other than a marriage of one man and one woman,” he said.
The brief also cites a major newspaper’s public opinion poll suggesting that that’s what voters had in mind too. A month before the 2004 election, the Detroit Free Press published a poll which found that 53 percent of respondents said they intended to vote in favor of the marriage amendment. “Even more (54 percent) say local governments and universities should not provide benefits, such as health and life insurance, to the partners of gay and lesbian employees,” the Free Press reported.
A month later, 59 percent of voters actually supported the amendment.
AFA-Michigan first proposed the amendment in June 2003, in response to a neighboring Ontario, Canada, court decision legalizing so-called homosexual “marriage” on Michigan’s doorstep.
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