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Posted on Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Ann Arbor supporting ACLU in federal lawsuit opposing domestic partner benefits ban

By Ryan J. Stanton

The city of Ann Arbor is supporting the ACLU in a federal lawsuit that claims Michigan's new ban on domestic partner benefits violates fundamental constitutional protections.

The Ann Arbor City Council voted unanimously Monday night in favor of a resolution directing the city administrator and city attorney to assist the civil rights group in the lawsuit filed in federal court this month after Gov. Rick Snyder signed Public Act 297 into law.

The law bans public employers in Michigan from offering health insurance and other benefits to the live-in partners of their employees.

Less than a dozen city of Ann Arbor employees take advantage of the city's domestic partner benefits policy but city officials say their rights are worth defending.


Council Member Jane Lumm, left, raised questions about the domestic partner benefits resolution co-sponsored by Christopher Taylor, right.

Ryan J. Stanton |

The resolution — sponsored by Sandi Smith, Tony Derezinski and Christopher Taylor — reaffirms the city's commitment to providing benefits to unmarried couples who have lived together for 18 months. It also directs the city administrator and city attorney to take appropriate actions to protect the legality of offering of those benefits.

The city won't formally join the ACLU lawsuit as a co-plaintiff but will assist in other ways, including possibly filing amicus briefs, said City Attorney Stephen Postema.

"To the extent that they need assistance and the court allows it, certainly we may be able to bring some perspective," he said.

The resolution approved by council acknowledges Ann Arbor has been a leader in human rights for many years and was the first city in Michigan to establish a non-discrimination ordinance and also the first to add protections for sexual orientation.

The city argues a ban on offering equal benefits to gay employees and other unmarried couples puts public employers at a competitive disadvantage.

"The city of Ann Arbor, the University of Michigan, the state of Michigan and other public employers in our state must be able to compete with the private sector and with public employers in other states to attract the best and brightest talent to our workforce," the resolution states, arguing the ban "violates fundamental constitutional protections, including equal protection of the law and substantive due process."

Council Member Jane Lumm, an Independent who represents the 2nd Ward, raised concerns about the potential investment of staff time in assisting the ACLU in the case, but she was told by city staff it would require very little time. She also said she would be concerned "if it was just the ACLU and the city of Ann Arbor and basically no one else" versus the state.

"For my part, I would be proud to have Ann Arbor stand as the only municipality with the ACLU on this issue," replied Taylor, D-3rd Ward.

City Administrator Steve Powers said in an email to council members that the city's administrative staff, with advice from the city attorney, will follow the resolution's intent to continue to provide domestic benefits to city employees.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 12:30 p.m.

Not wanting to start something here but with the new health care plan that the President has signed won't this then mean that if someone not married will able to get that health plan? By the time this goes to court it will be well past 2014. I will be honest I don't know all the details about the national health plan but it is suppose to fix this. I know that if something happens to my benifits I hope that I can get onto this new national plan.

The Black Stallion3

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 8:15 p.m.

Face it people.....the tax payers / voters of this state do not care to support your way of thinking............if you want to change that you will have to win a vote on the matter....good luck !

Steven Harper Piziks

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 9:34 p.m.

Yes, BS, you are exactly right. Yes, you are.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 6:55 p.m.

Why should the state dictate benefits offered by local governments? If you don't like the benefits offered by local government then you should vote out the local elected officials. The door has been opened, so don't be surprised at some time in the future when state democrats have a majority and decide that they would also like to dictate benefits offered by local governments.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 6:45 p.m.

For A2 elected officials to WASTE taxpayers money on this is NOT what they were elected to do! Staright parents rock!!

Leyna Cameron

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 8:33 p.m.

I'm a taxpayer and I'm in a same-sex partnership. One person's "waste" is another person's necessity. Why should my taxes go towards public school that primarily support the children of heterosexuals? I don't have kids, this is not "my" issue.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 7:27 p.m.

Really? Lets look at statistics. How many killers were produced from homosexual sex and how many from heterosexual acts? Passing the law in the FIRST place was a waste of taxpayer dollars.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 5:20 p.m.

All domestic unions (heterosexual or homosexual) should be licensed by the state as such. If people want to be "married" in a church in addition to their legal union, fine, let them, no problems. But let's let each church fight out who they want to marry on their own -- that's their internal fight, not the general population's fight. The government should provide equal protection under the law, as the constitution says.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 4:29 p.m.

Gay parents rock: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 2:57 p.m.

&quot;The city won't formally join the ACLU lawsuit as a co-plaintiff but will assist in other ways, including possibly filing amicus briefs, said City Attorney Stephen Postema.&quot; Try doing the job you are getting paid for instead of this nonsense on OUR dime!


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 2:48 a.m.

Hey Steven Why is it when someone disagrees with your point of view they are &quot;bigoted&quot;? One point of view is no more valid than another. And anyone that thinks otherwise might be bigoted themselves!

Steven Harper Piziks

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 9:33 p.m.

I think the majority of AAers support their move, and YOU are in the minority, dude. They're working for what the majority of city inhabitants want, not what the bigoted minority want.

Leyna Cameron

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 8:16 p.m.

Because as we all know, gay people don't pay taxes...

rusty shackelford

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 3:34 p.m.

The job he gets paid for is to represent the city (i.e. the people) of Ann Arbor. As his client, the city directs his priorities. Council unanimously asked him to work on this--a move that I'm sure a majority of A2ers support.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 2:55 p.m.

I cheer for opportunities to open up discussion about oppression of my neighbors based upon their being a member of an identity group. Ending oppression is the path of all people. There were laws when my house was built that kept all women from the right to vote. There are deeds to houses in my neighborhood intended to prevent purchase by Jews, people of color, and others seen as unworthy of equal rights when those deeds were written. We can see plenty of opposition to rational treatment of each other as the cultural blindness of our past gets clearer. The feelings readers might have on how marriage is defined by the state, doesn't make governmental action correct. We all know that our prejudices get in the way of seeing and thinking clearly.

rusty shackelford

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 2:18 p.m.

People understand that majoritarianism isn't democracy, right? Because it doesn't really seem like some commenters here get that basic principle of the American political system.

The Black Stallion3

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 2:06 p.m.

The sane people of this state have spoken with their vote and that is the way the majority feels.

Leyna Cameron

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 8:53 p.m.

Well, being that gay marriage is legal in 6 states as well as DC, I'd be willing to bet the entire country isn't in unanimous agreement about you can feel free to get out of here too, you know, if you have a problem with the inevitable future of gay rights in the United States.

The Black Stallion3

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 8:23 p.m.

Feel free to exit the country at any time to find one that agrees with this nonsense.

Leyna Cameron

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 8:14 p.m.

The people of Michigan shouldn't have a right to vote on the terms of my relationship...I don't get to vote on yours.

Ed Kimball

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 4:34 p.m.

Just because the majority feels this way, doesn't make it right. Two hundred years ago the majority of Americans thought it was &quot;right&quot; to have black people as slaves. (The majority of Michigan) voters were &quot;wrong&quot; when they voted on the definition of marriage, and eventually they will come to realize it.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 2:04 p.m.

In 2004 the voters of the State of Michigan voted for the definition that a marriage was between a man and a women. Now the ACLU and the City of Ann Arbor want to discard the will of the people and have the definition changed by the courts. Where is the justice? And why do &quot;OUR TAX Dollars&quot; have to support this action? Has far as &quot;puts public employers at a competitive disadvantage.&quot; with the economy the way it is, there are plenty of &quot;over qualified&quot; candidates for any job the city or State. Vote for Change in 2012!

Steven Harper Piziks

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 9:30 p.m.

Then leave.

char jenson

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.

Did you know that Ann Abor has more gay people living here than San Francisco . Time everyone gets educated on gay life and aids before making stupid comments in public. Gay couples make better parents, they care. Better open a Aids Society in AnnArbor, and get gay couples out there talking to people. Marvey Milk did alot for the USA keep his work going


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 11:42 p.m.

johnnya2 Why not be honest? &quot;Some studies showed that SINGLE heterosexual parents' children have more difficulties than children who have parents(PLURAL) of the same sex, If you are going to put forth an argument at least be honest about what cited studies say!


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 7:24 p.m.

You don't have to believe Char, but the RESEARCH indicates in some ways gay parents ARE actually better <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> This quote is from the author of the scientific research &quot;&quot;In some ways children of same-sex parents actually may have advantages over other family structures.&quot; As for being more than in SF, that is just factually incorrect by any standard used, whether it be gay households or self reported gay men and women. Not sure about the whole AIDS thing. AIDS is not a gay disease. In fact, the lowest rate of HIV infection is among lesbian woman.

Michigan Man

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 3:16 p.m.

Who is Marvey Milk? Glad I moved away from Ann Arbor - If this comment is true - which I know it is not - real estate in Dexter, Saline, Ypsilanti, Manchester, etc will take off with those fleeing from Ann Arbor.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 2:59 p.m.

You just set Gay Right back 20 years with your foolish remarks!


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 1:51 p.m.

&quot;gay couples make better parents, they care&quot; ..... You just went over the top and invalidated your point.

The Black Stallion3

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 1:32 p.m.

Lord help us.......Please


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 1:18 p.m.

Why should domestic partners - same sex or otherwise - receive benefits? If you want to legalize same sex marriage, I am all for it. But it has to follow the same steps to become law as every other law. That's the way the process works. Pushing for benefits first rather than working to pass same sex marriage seems like placing the cart before the horse. Next opposite sex domestic partners will be demanding benefits.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 3:07 p.m.

Meg, I wasn't referring to bellweather in my mind. I was referring the legislation (in government or from the bench) of the issue overall and going after domestic partner benefits vs. making same sex marriage law.

The Black Stallion3

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 2:04 p.m.

Excuse me Meg.....just because U-M does something.....doesn't make it right...does it?


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 1:52 p.m.

Steve, as has been noted, oh, a thousand times before, U-M does offer benefits to OQA, both same- and opposite-sex. If you're going to get up in arms about something, you should understand the issue.

rusty shackelford

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 1:07 p.m.

Good. I fully support this. Though I wonder why the desire not to join as coplaintiffs, given that the city is directly and negatively impacted by this law.

rusty shackelford

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 3:33 p.m.

We were forced to reduce benefits for employees on terms that have nothing to do with their merits.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 3 p.m.

&quot;given that the city is directly and negatively impacted by this law.&quot; How so? Please explain!


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 12:56 p.m.

why should the city or state have to cover the &quot;PARTNER&quot; of an employee who works for them? just what does &quot;PARTNER&quot; mean ? who is responsible for determining weither or not the &quot;PARTNER&quot; has been with the employee for the necessary 18 mos.? what about children of the &quot;PARTNER&quot; are they covered as well? will the city or state have to form a &quot;DOMESTIC PARTNER&quot; commitee to make sure the employee is telling the truth? whats to keep someone from enrolling a friend or relative ? benefits are for the employee and their spouses and their children. not for someone who co-habitates with the employee.

Leyna Cameron

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 8:08 p.m.

Then Michigan should legalize gay marriage...This is only in place in this manner because same-sex couples can't get married here yet.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 7:05 p.m.

Who determines whether a marriage is a sham marriage to get extra benefits? and YES, the children of employees DO get benefits., That does not change. If I had children and was employed by the city I would get health care for them, EVEN if they do not live with me, or I do not see them. The children here are the ones who are non biological parents. As an adopted child it is insane to think because my father who adopted me, he could not insure me.

Joe Kidd

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 5:08 p.m.

Livid, the article includes, &quot;The city argues a ban on offering equal benefits to gay employees and other unmarried couples puts public employers at a competitive disadvantage.&quot; &quot;Other unmarried couples&quot; can include heterosexual people can't it? As for the language in re to a competitive disadvantage, that seems to be a stretch to me. Frankly I really do not care much on this other than whatever happens is not based on sexual orientation or any other trait. For example if benefits are extended to gay couples and their children they should also be extended to straight couples and their children too. Anything else would be unfair treatment.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 3:39 p.m.

I agree, this is confusing. Let's just let gay people get married and stop discriminating against them -- at the very least to end the confusion ;-)


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 1:49 p.m.

Because a government sanctioned piece of paper really proves people are more committed to one another than building a life together? Who, exactly, is responsible for determining that a marriage is &quot;real&quot;? Or are you simply saying that everyone should be allowed to marry regardless of gender? If so, right on!


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 1:41 p.m.

Because we cannot get married!!! I have been with my partner for 32 years. We own a home, have shared checking accounts, and we raised two great men. When i signed up for Domestic Partner benefits I provided multiple items to prove my partnership and my married co-workers provided nothing. There are only 9 people claiming partner benefits in the whole county!!! I guess eliminating partner benefits saves the County Tons---Not.

The Black Stallion3

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 12:45 p.m.

Why don't we put this to a vote by the people of Michigan? Let them decide as a majority if this is what the people want. Then we can stop all this nonsense and get back to business as usual. This is the fairest alternative we have and a vote for democracy.


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 12:03 a.m.

Johnnya2, you sure we're talking about &quot;rights' or might it be considered &quot;entitlements&quot;? I consider it an entitlement at taxpayer expense and a public union grievance which should be challenged using public union dollars, not property tax dollars. Beneficiaries of this challenge don't even live in the city and pay property taxes so why should my property tax dollars be used?

The Black Stallion3

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 8:22 p.m.

Not ridiculous rules bother you? Please try to think of others and their feelings in this country....we are not a socialist state yet.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 7:01 p.m.

A vote on RIGHTS for minorities is ridiculous. I suppose if the majority said women can not work, you would be ok with it? If the majority said, we do not want blacks in our schools, you would be ok with it? Ridiculous and insulting.

Basic Bob

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 12:16 p.m.

Many people are confused over the difference between what is &quot;right&quot; or &quot;fair&quot; and what is legal. There are clearly differences. I expect our elected officials to follow the law, as it is written today. If they want to pass a resolution, fine. However if they want to spend money to change the law, they should take up a collection for private donations or volunteer their time. Don't spend money that could be used to hire a cop or firefighter. When governments fight, only the lawyers win.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 11:08 p.m.

Johnny2, the state used income tax dollars to support the legislative process, the city uses property tax dollars to benefit public union members who may not even live in Ann Arbor and pay property taxes. Your argument is way off base. Why aren't public union dollars being used for this challenge?


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 11:05 p.m.

Basic Bob, I agree, it's not right to misuse public funds in this manner


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 6:59 p.m.

Actually Harry, the STATE spent tax dollars making the law, so your argument does not hold a single ounce of sincerity to it. When the state loses in court, will they take that money from the right wing nuts who passed the law? Will it comes from the nerds pockets? Didnt think so


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 6:01 p.m.

Rusty You are right they are challenging the validity with your money. I am so glad I made the descion 20 years ago not to live there.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 5:11 p.m.

I'm with Rusty. If &quot;equal protection&quot; means equal protection, then the ban on domestic partner benefits is unconstitutional, plain and simple. If the Michigan legislature hadn't passed this unconstitutional law, no one would have to spend any money to change it.

rusty shackelford

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 1:05 p.m.

Give me a break. Part of &quot;the law&quot; is that it is always subject to judicial review. The days of the lord handing down stone tablets is long over. They are not breaking the law, they are challenging its validity.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 11:37 a.m.

Excellent. This sort of stand for what is right is part of why I live here.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 11:03 p.m.

They shouldn't be using our public money to fight for a select group of public union employees....what's wrong with the union coughing up the necessary dough since they will be the only beneficiary?


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 8:35 p.m.

comic relief


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 7:55 p.m.

So, Harry, why do you read our news then?


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 5:59 p.m.

Thats funny. Thats exactly why I dont live there.