Legislator sues university over gay partner rights

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In papers filed this past week, gay legal group Lambda Legal asked the Butler County Court of Common Pleas in Ohio to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a legislator seeking to take away the domestic partner benefits of employees of Miami University because the legislator has no legal standing to sue.

“Mr [Tom] Brinkman has no legal standing to bring this lawsuit because it makes no difference in his daily life when the domestic partners of lesbian and gay university employees have health insurance,” said James Madigan, lawyer for Lambda Legal’s Midwest Regional Office in Chicago.

“The real people who are helped by this benefit or harmed by its absence are the lesbian and gay employees and their families. Their health ought not be the source of fodder for a politician up for re-election.”

The brief argues that Mr Brinkman has no standing to sue, because the University pays for its domestic partner benefits with privately donated funds, not with tax dollars or tuition. He also has not shown that he suffered any direct impact that would be corrected if Miami University took away the health and dental insurance it currently offers to the domestic partners of university employees.

Lambda Legal filed a motion in December 2005 to intervene on behalf of Professors Jean Lynch and Yvonne Keller, after the domestic partner benefits offered by their employer, Miami University, came under attack by the antigay Alliance Defence Fund (ADF). ADF, along with Ohio legislator Thomas Brinkman, is suing the university, claiming that its domestic partner benefits violate Ohio’s antigay constitutional amendment, which limits marriage to a man and a woman. The court granted Lambda Legal’s request to intervene in the lawsuit on behalf of the two professors, given the impact that the decision of the case would have on them and their families. In the case, Lambda Legal is arguing that Ohio’s constitutional amendment does not apply to the university because it concerns only marriage and does not address the legality of domestic partnership benefits.

The case is Brinkman v. Miami University. James P. Madigan, Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal’s Midwest Regional Office in Chicago is handling the case with co-counsel, Alphonse Gerhardstein and Jennifer Branch of Gerhardstein, Branch Laufman in Cincinnati, OH.

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