Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

30,000 State of Michigan employees lose same-sex benefits

2. December 2004 • Murph
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Under pressure from the Republican legislature to comply with Proposal 2, Governor Granholm’s administration will remove same-sex partner benefits from the State of Michigan’s contracts with five unions, representing 30,000 state employees.

From the Ann Arbor News:

On Wednesday, Granholm aide David Fink said that negotiated contracts scheduled for adoption by the [state Civil Service Commission] on Dec. 15 will be stripped of the same-sex domestic partner benefits.

Fink, who holds the title of state employer, said the Granholm administration decided to eliminate the benefits because of the passage of Proposal 2, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman and bans same-sex marriage and “similar unions for any purpose.”

“We’re about following the law and honoring the intent of the voters,” Fink told a Detroit newspaper.

Fink is apparently hoping to avoid a lawsuit that would force the State to comply, and notes that the same-sex benefits could/would be reinstated if court challenges showed the amendment to have overreached.

University of Michigan employees are not affected by this action,

U-M spokeswoman Julie Peterson this morning said the governor’s action did not change the university’s position.

Officials at the University of Michigan and Wayne State University have said they are exempt from the constitutional amendment as autonomous entities of the state, and Proposal 2’s passage doesn’t change that.

Peterson said it was important to provide the benefits in order to attract the best and most talented employees.

“If the benefits are challenged, we’ll defend our rights to (provide them),” she said.

  1. I’m really dismayed that the governor caved so fast. A total lack of principles. You’d barely know from the Michigan Democrats that more than 40% of us in this state opposed the discrimination amendment. The amendment is probably legally invalid anyway because of the vagueness of its ban on domestic partner benefits and for the governor to breach these contracts is an outrage. I’m pretty sure the U-M can win if challenged in court.
       —Matt    Dec. 3 '04 - 12:44AM    #
  2. Yep. I’m sad that the Governor would rather face a lawsuit by yanking benefits under the proposal than face a lawsuit for not yanking benefits.
       —Murph    Dec. 3 '04 - 07:10AM    #
  3. Fink!
    Hold on, those benefits aren’t for marriage or similar arrangement. Similar arrangements don’t exist. They’re for same-sex partners, whether or not they’re in a committed sexual relationship. Which isn’t a similar relationship to marriage at all.
    Now, if we had civil unions, then that would apply.
       —js    Dec. 3 '04 - 07:34AM    #
  4. Unfortunately, it’s not quite accurate to say that University of Michigan employees are “not affected by this action.” They may not be affected right now, but if one of the groups that sees University domestic partner benefits as unlawful files suit against the University challenging the provision of the benefits, it will most definitely become a problem for University employees in the not-distant future.

    The action by Granholm’s chief employment officer makes it more likely, not less likely, that such litigation against the University will occur.

    See this article from today’s Michigan Daily for more details.
       —Frank    Dec. 3 '04 - 12:36PM    #
  5. It’s definitely the case that either (a) everybody’s going to lose same-sex benefits, or (b) people are going to maintain benefits only after somebody gets sued over it. Hopefully UMich is willing to be the entity that bites the bullet and hauls this to the Supreme Court (we’re experienced in that arena, after all) rather than backing down in the fact of challenge.
       —Murph    Dec. 3 '04 - 02:58PM    #