Family group calls for AG's opinion, bill to limit benefits only to married state employees

Family group calls for AG’s opinion, bill to
limit benefits only to married state employees

Schuette’s legislation from 1998 cited as model
in message to governor, legislative leadership

LANSING, Mich. — In the face of an impending $1.8 billion deficit in the state budget, a statewide family values urged Gov. Rick Snyder and legislative leaders to act to protect taxpayers from being forced to fund yet another multi-million dollar expansion of employment benefits for government employees, the most recent driven by what the group called “an ideological fixation, no matter how much it costs, on forcing taxpayers to subsidize homosexual relationships that many taxpayers consider immoral characterized by behavior that threatens personal and public health.”

Gary Glenn, Midland, president of the American Family Association of Michigan, said in a statement sent to Snyder, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, and Speaker of the House Jase Bolger that “when our state is already drowning in red ink, forcing taxpayers to fund new benefits for any new group of beneficiaries — especially one at severely elevated risk of substance abuse and expensive life-threatening diseases such as AIDS, cancer, and hepatitis — is all the more unthinkable and will further increase both the state budget deficit and the cost of health care for everyone.”

He pointed to a national homosexual activist group’s embarrassing experience with the cost of its own same-sex benefits plan. According to the Washington Blade, a “gay” advocacy newspaper in the nation’s capital, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force — which is critical of employers who cite cost in refusing to offer same-sex benefits — was forced in 2003 to cut back its own same-sex benefits plan, calling it “prohibitively expensive” and unsustainable.

“When the NGLTF’s unionized staff threatened to go public with a dispute over domestic partner benefits,” the Blade reported, “(executive director Lorri) Jean called for dropping a longstanding NGLTF policy of paying 100 percent of the health insurance premium for staff members’ domestic partners, saying the benefit was prohibitively expensive…(and)…a 100 percent benefit plan for domestic partners could not be sustained, Jean said, at a time when the group had a $500,000 debt.” (Washington Blade, March 7, 2003)

Glenn, one of two co-authors of the Marriage Protection Amendment overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2004, said in the statement to Snyder and legislative leaders that because of the scientifically proven social, financial, and health benefits of marriage between a man and a woman, the state should statutorily restrict state employment benefits exclusively to married employees as an incentive.

“Every study ever done proves that traditional marriage results in increased health and financial security for both men and women, and that their children are healthier, do better in school, and are less likely as teens to use drugs, get pregnant, or commit juvenile crime, all of which reduces the cost to taxpayers for law enforcement, social welfare, and other government programs,” Glenn said.

“Getting married is also the single biggest factor in avoiding or escaping poverty,” Glenn said, citing a study published five months ago by the Heritage Foundation which found that in Michigan, children of single mothers are more than six times more likely to live in poverty than children of married parents.

“Rather than force taxpayers to subsidize unmarried relationships, Michigan should as a matter of fiscal policy alone reduce the size and expense of government by doing everything possible to encourage and incentivize traditional marriage,” he said. “That includes saving money by restricting tax-funded employment benefits exclusively to state employees who are married, specifically to reward and encourage employees to get married and stay married.”

“More marriage means less government, less government spending, and less of a burden on taxpayers,” he said.Glenn in his message to Snyder and legislative leaders specifically urged the following steps:

* Formally request that Attorney General Bill Schuette issue an official opinion — which has the force of law unless overturned in court — on whether the state Civil Service Commission’s approval this month of tax-funded spousal-type benefits for the unmarried cohabitants of state employees violates the Marriage Protection Amendment. A pre-election poll by the Detroit Free Press in 2004 found that a larger percentage of the state’s population opposed tax-financed same-sex benefits for government employees than supported the amendment itself, which ended up passing with nearly 60 percent of the vote. (“Gay marriage ban headed for passage,” Detroit Free Press, Oct. 2, 2004)

Glenn said that by drawing the eligibility requirements for such benefits so narrowly — their express purpose being to cover the homosexual partners of state employees, advocates of the policy said, while excluding family members such as parents and siblings — the commission’s plan may have granted legal recognition of unmarried homosexual and heterosexual relationships as being “similar to” marriage, a step the state Supreme Court ruled in 2008 is prohibited by the amendment. Attesting to its agreement with Glenn’s views as a co-author as to the amendment’s intent, the court quoted or cited AFA-Michigan’s legal brief on the issue three times in its decision in Pride at Work (AFL-CIO) v. Granholm.

“As we made clear in public statements as far back as the ballot campaign for the amendment in 2004, we believe an unrestricted benefits policy that allows a state employee to cover anyone he chooses, including family members such as parents, siblings, or grandparents, probably would be constitutional since it obviously would not be based on treating the employee’s relationship as similar to a marriage,” he said. “But that’s not what the Civil Service Commission did.”

But there’s a big distinction between the question of constitutionality and whether such a plan is good public policy, Glenn said. AFA-Michigan would oppose such an unrestricted plan, even if constitutional, because it would increase the tax burden on Michigan families even more than the Civil Service Commission’s plan. Attorneys for the University of Michigan agreed in the Pride at Work case, arguing in court that because of the cost, the university should not be compelled to broadly offer benefits to any individual an employee chooses in order to be allowed to continue covering employees’ homosexual partners.

* Even if Schuette rules the Civil Service Commission plan is allowed under the Marriage Protection Amendment, that doesn’t mean the state constitution requires such benefits be offered, Glenn said. Ideally, the state should instead enact legislation such as that Schuette himself introduced over a decade ago as a member of the state Senate, restricting taxpayer-financed state employment benefits only to the spouses of married employees, with the obvious effect of statutorily prohibiting the commission’s unmarried partner benefits plan in future collective bargaining agreements with state employees. Schuette’s legislation passed the Senate in 1998 but was not brought up for consideration by the House.

Metro Times, a Detroit newsweekly, reported in 1999: “State Sen. Bill Schuette, R-Midland, is pushing legislation prohibiting employees of state-funded entities from receiving domestic partner benefits. That legislation evolved from an earlier Schuette effort to target the extension of such benefits at Wayne State University, the University of Michigan and other institutions. The attorney general ruled that public colleges and universities could be barred from extending the benefits only if there was a law against it for all employees of entities receiving state funds. …Ginotti says the senator wants to stop the use of taxes to support benefits for unmarried partners because their bond isn’t legally recognized.”

The Post newspaper at Ohio University reported in 1997: “When Michigan State University became the third Michigan university in September — preceded by Wayne State University and the University of Michigan — to grant such benefits, backlash arose from a state senator. Although the decision was supported by the MSU Board of Trustees after more than two years of research and debate, state Sen. Bill Schuette, R-Midland, created a plan to penalize universities for funding benefits to partners of gay and lesbian faculty and staff by not permitting them to use state money to pay for the benefits, according to the MSU State News. Phil Ginotte, Schuette’s spokesman, said the trustees made an unwise decision — ‘a mistake’ that will ‘resonate through the state,’ according to the Sept. 15 issue of the MSU State News.” (Oct. 27, 1997)

Glenn also dismissed arguments by homosexual activist groups and their political allies that the state must subsidize the homosexual and other unmarried partners of state employees in order to be competitive in hiring.

“Homosexual behavior is not a requirement or indicator of being among the best and brightest. The severe public health consequences alone prove that engaging in such behavior is neither the best or brightest decision, and taxpayers certainly shouldn’t be forced to pay for the medical consequences of such behavior.”

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