Michigan justices reject health benefits for gay couples

Chris Rizo May 7, 2008, 1:13pm

LANSING, Mich. (Legal Newsline)-The Michigan Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a state voter-approved ban against gay marriage also prohibits governments and state universities from offering health insurance to the partners of gay workers.

In a 5-2 ruling, the high court affirmed a state Court of Appeals ruling that the state's marriage amendment, which states that the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage, bars public employers from providing health-insurance benefits to their employees' domestic partners."

The 34-page opinion by Justice Stephen Markman said offering healthcare benefits to qualified same-sex domestic partners violates Michigan's 2004 gay marriage ban.

As many as 20 public universities, community colleges, school districts and local governments in Michigan have benefits policies covering at least 375 gay couples, court papers said.

Since many of the institutions changed their policies after the February 2007 appeals court ruling to offer healthcare benefits to "other qualified adults," it is unclear what effect Wednesday's ruling will have on enrollees.

Dissenting were Justices Marilyn Kelly and Michael Cavanaugh.

"First the language of the amendment itself prohibits nothing more than the recognition of same-sex marriages of similar unions," Kelly wrote.

"It is a perversion of the amendment's language to conclude that, by voluntarily offering the benefits at issue, a public employer recognizes a union similar to marriage," she added.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo by e-mail at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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