Michigan appeals court allows benefits for domestic partners of state employees

[JURIST] The Michigan Court of Appeals [official website] on Wednesday upheld [opinion, PDF] a Michigan Civil Service Commission (MCSC) [official website] policy granting health care benefits to same-sex domestic partners of state employees. Attorney General Bill Schuette argued against the policy, claiming that, by extending the policy to provide health benefits for those who have "jointly shared the same regular and permanent residence" with a state employee, the MCSC is attempting to "circumvent Michigan's prohibition against recognizing any 'agreement' other than 'the union of one man and one woman in marriage.'" In a 2-1 opinion, Judges Amy Ronayne Krause and Stephen Borrello declared that "the policy is unambiguously gender-neutral," stating further that the policy "does not depend on the employee being in a close relationship of any particular kind ... beyond a common residence." Judge Michael Riordan dissented on the claims that there was no rational basis for the policy.

The issue of same-sex relationships [JURIST backgrounder] remains controversial throughout the US, with states taking various approaches. In December Wisconsin's 4th District Court of Appeals ruled [JURIST report] that the state's domestic partnership registry does not infringe on the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Earlier in December the Montana Supreme Court [official website] affirmed [JURIST report] a lower court's dismissal of a lawsuit seeking legal status for same-sex relationships. Like Wisconsin, Montana also has a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Earlier this month Washington Governor Christine Gregoire certified the results of Referendum 74 [JURIST report] which legalized same-sex marriage in the state. Washington had previously recognized domestic partnerships [JURIST report]. Also in December the US Supreme Court [official website] agreed to rule [JURIST report] on two cases dealing with same-sex marriage. In Hollingsworth v. Perry [docket] the court will consider the validity of Proposition 8 [JURIST news archive], a California referendum that revoked same-sex marriage rights. In United States v. Windsor [docket] the court will examine the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text; JURIST news archive].

 

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