Thursday, May 08, 2008

Inequity in Michigan

I was really upset when Jim alerted me to a recent ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court. The ruling interpreted the gay marriage ban that passed in 2004 (which I voted against) to also mean that benefits for gay partners in state-run institutions is also illegal. This is especially hurtful to state universities, who will likely lose top scholars who can get partner benefits in other states.

Regardless of how you feel about the sin-status of gay sex, I think we can all agree that humans deserve to be treated as such. It would be absurd if we ostracized and financially punished individuals in our society for other activites that are prohibited more explicitly and strongly in the Bible. But instead we often have usurers, gluttons and adulterers in civic and religious leadership roles. This is a clear case of discrimination that in the future we will see as repugnant as Jim Crow.

This is an issue of human rights and fairness, and it's embarrassing that in 2008 our society is moving backward instead of toward equality. I urge readers of this blog who still reside in Michigan to take a stand against this injustice.

edit: more discussion on feministing.


kristen said...

Agreed. Shame on Michigan. And what a poor business decision for an already fledgling state.

Anonymous said...

Don't be so upset, Bethany.

The MI Supreme Court Wed. simply upheld last year's MI Court of Appeals decision.

Even the opponents of Michigan's marriage amendment dispute your characterization of the ruling.

Attorney Jay Kaplan of the Michigan ACLU, lead counsel for the homosexual plaintiffs in the MI case, last June told Lansing City Pulse:

"'The Michigan Court of Appeals decision never said that public employers could not provide health care coverage to domestic partners of employees,' Kaplan wrote in an e-mail. He said that employers can provide health insurance coverage for domestic partners as long as they do not specifically recognize the domestic partner relationship — by filing domestic partner benefit forms, for example — when determining criteria for insurance eligibility."

Between the Lines, a homosexual activist newsweekly in Detroit, reported:

"(ACLU-Michigan lawyer Jay) Kaplan says that even under the Appeals Court ruling, benefits can be offered, but they have to be done in a way which does not recognize same-sex partners or relationships."

Kalamazoo Alliance for Equality, a homosexual activist group, said last June in a news release:

"The Michigan Court of Appeals did not say that health insurance coverage for domestic partners is illegal. The court said that public employers cannot use criteria that recognizes the domestic partner relationship."

As a result of the Appeals ruling, upheld this week, public employers in MI simply broadened the eligibility criteria so that benefits were no longer available only for homsexual couples, i.e., so that the benefits were no longer based on govt recognition of a homosexual partnership. The new plans still include homosexual partners, but they also now include other categories of employees who weren't eligible before.

Thus, as a direct result of the Marriage Protection Amendment, not only has no individual actually lost any benefits, the fact is that under the broader criteria now in place at U-M, MSU, etc., MORE citizens are now eligible for coverage under govt employees' health care plans than were before.

Would you rather revert back to the previous homosexual domestic partner-only benefit policies, and take benefits away from those new categories of govt employees who are now eligible?

bethany said...

anonymous: Exactly WHICH citizens are now eligible for coverage? I'm skeptical.

kristen said...

I'm a little confused by Anon's claims. Kaplan was saying "yes, domestic partners can be covered" but they have to be covered under a ridiculous system that refers to these PARTNERS as "qualified adults."

Not only that but employers have to develop their own program to provide these benefits. It means jumping through a lot of hoops and run the risk of having that employment program rejected.

The point is, why shouldn't same sex partnerships be recognized? What is the harm of giving same sex partners medical benefits? What is the "danger to marriage" that benefits serve?!

The Michigan voters thought they were "protecting marriage" not denying health insurance to partners and children of same sex couples. If the Supreme Court was upholding a court of appeals decision, they were upholding a disgusting decision.

kristen said...

I notice that anonymous hasn't come back (big surprise) but I thought I would reiterate what feministing argued today and stress that just because universities have found ways to give same sex partners benefits doesn't mean that this ruling in any way helps same sex partners. Sure they *can* provide coverage but it doesn't mean it is easy to do so.

And, I still contend that to be prohibited from "specifically recognizing domestic partners" is homophobic and discriminatory.

bethany said...

thanks for clarifying kristen. Spam is annoying, we were right all along.