Judge Slaps Michigan for Excluding Gay Couples

     (CN) – A federal judge has temporarily blocked a Michigan law that denies health care coverage to same-sex couples.
     Four same-sex couples challenged the constitutionality of Michigan’s Public Employees Domestic Partner Restriction Act in January 2012.
     Public Act 297 prohibits public employers from providing medical and other fringe benefits to any person cohabitating with a public employee unless that person is legally married to the employee, or is a legal dependent, or eligible to inherit under Michigan intestacy laws.
     The couples claimed that, even though the law does not single out same-sex unions by name, it is intended to silently discriminate against gay couples. Michigan Gov. Richard Snyder countered that the law has no such purpose and that it is merely a way of restricting the scope of employee benefits to save the state money.
     U.S. District Judge David Lawson found the law unconstitutional on Friday for hat violating the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
     “The historical background and legislative history of the Act demonstrate that it was motivated by animus against gay men and lesbians,” Lawson wrote. “The history of debate over domestic partner benefits illustrates the tension between some local governments’ desire to provide benefits to same sex couples in a manner consistent with the Michigan constitution and a desire by opponents of same-sex benefits to block them. Local governments began to offer the other-eligible-adult benefit in their present form – that is, open to partners who are of either the same or opposite sex – after the Michigan Supreme Court held that conditioning benefits on the sex of the employee’s partner violated the Michigan constitution. It is therefore apparent that eligible adult benefits represent local governments’ attempt to provide health insurance benefits to same-sex couples on a basis that is consistent with the Michigan constitution. Public Act 297 seeks to block further attempts by local governments to provide benefits to same-sex couples in a manner consistent with the Michigan constitution by setting up requirements that same-sex couples cannot meet. That history demonstrates a concerted attempt to block same-sex partners from accessing benefits that is consistent with a desire to effectuate animus against gay men and lesbians.”
     Lawson’s preliminary injunction bars Gov. Snyder from enforcing the law during the pendency of the action or until further order of the court.

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