LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Public universities and state and local governments would violate the state constitution by providing health insurance to the partners of homosexual employees, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled yesterday.
A three-judge panel said a 2004 voter-approved ban on homosexual “marriage” also applies to same-sex domestic partner benefits. The decision reverses a 2005 ruling from an Ingham County judge who said universities and governments could provide the benefits.
“The marriage amendment’s plain language prohibits public employers from recognizing same-sex unions for any purpose,” the court wrote.
A constitutional amendment passed by Michigan voters in November 2004 made the union between a man and a woman the only agreement recognized as a marriage “or similar union for any purpose.” Those six words led to the court fight over benefits for homosexual couples.
Homosexual couples and others had argued that the public intended to ban homosexual “marriage” but not block benefits for unmarried opposite sex or same-sex domestic partners.
The appeals court agreed with the Michigan attorney general, Republican Mike Cox, who said in a March 2005 opinion that same-sex benefits are not allowed in a state that does not recognize same-sex unions.
The legal challenge was mounted by 21 homosexual couples who work for the city of Kalamazoo, universities and the state.
“The protection of the institution of marriage is a long-standing public policy and tradition in the law of Michigan,” Judges Kurtis Wilder, Joel Hoekstra and Brian Zahra noted In the unanimous ruling.
Jeffrey Montgomery, executive director of the Triangle Foundation, a leading homosexual advocacy group in Michigan, said the legal sanctity of marriage was not in question.
“This ruling will result in families being robbed of their health care and other basic necessities that are fundamental to protecting their well-being,” he said.
The case will be appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court, said Jay Kaplan, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.
“We’re very disappointed by this result,” he said. “It’s a misguided analysis, and they produced a heartless result. It was never the voters’ intention in 2004 to take away health insurance benefits from families and children.”