Michigan halts equal treatment of gay partners

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The Michigan Court of Appeals issued a temporary halt this week to a ruling that allowed governments and public universities to provide health insurance to the partners of gay employees.

The dispute goes back to Michigan voters’ approval almost a year ago of a constitutional amendment that made the union between a man and a woman the only agreement recognized as a marriage “or similar union for any purpose.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed a legal challenge to the amendment, and in late September, Ingham County Circuit Judge Joyce Draganchuk ruled that public-sector employers can offer domestic partner benefits without violating the amendment.

Republican State Attorney General Mike Cox is now appealing that ruling and had asked the appeals court to delay Draganchuk’s decision until the higher court decides the issue.

Cox, with the support of a number of Michigan based conservative groups, argue that the constitutional amendment prohibited Kalamazoo and other public employers from providing same-sex benefits in future contracts.

A spokeswoman for Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm said Granholm was “deeply disappointed” with the delay.

Health benefits were also included in labor contracts negotiated with state employees. Granholm put the benefits on hold while awaiting the ruling but now is asking the state Civil Service Commission to approve them.

The parties’ legal briefs are due in early December.

“It’s possible a decision could be reached by the end of the year,” ACLU spokeswoman Wendy Wagenheim said, according to the Associated Press.

The ACLU, representing 21 gay couples who filed the lawsuit over the issue of domestic partner benefits, argued the stay does nothing to prevent the state or Kalamazoo from providing same-sex benefits because same-sex benefits were allowed before Draganchuk’s ruling.

© 2005 Angelo Pezzote, All Rights Reserved