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Posted on Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 6:21 p.m.

Federal judge hears arguments against state law banning domestic partner health benefits

By Staff

A federal judge today heard arguments from the American Civil Liberties Union asking to strike down a Michigan ban on health care benefits granted to the domestic partners of state workers.


Peter Ways and Joe Breakey of Ann Arbor with their daughter, Aliza Breakey-Ways.

The ACLU and Kirkland & Ellis LLP, representing five gay and lesbian public employees and their partners, also have asked that the law be blocked until a decision is issued, according to a news release.

Two Ann Arbor couples — Theresa Bassett and Carol Kennedy, and Peter Ways and Joe Breakey — are among those represented.

"We have no interest being in a legal battle with the state of Michigan, but standing up for the rights of our families is more important right now,” Ways, an Ann Arbor teacher whose partner will lose his benefits, said in a statement. “This law targets gay families in a very specific way, sending the message that we don't count and that we are not wanted. The state cannot retain a high quality work force with this type of policy in place."

The ban was signed into law in December by Gov. Rick Snyder. It mostly affects local governments and public schools and applies to health insurance and other benefits for unmarried partners of the employees.

It's not clear whether ban applies to employees of public universities. The governor's office, and officials from the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University say it does not. However, some Michigan lawmakers say it does.

Read previous coverage here.



Mon, May 20, 2013 : 1:51 p.m.

How about controlling the ever rising cost of health insurance. There is plenty of blame to go around on this. The two biggest problems here are hospitals gouging (like $150 for a band aid. Then the insurance lobby which won't allow coverage to be purchased outside the state and opening it up to free market competition. Allow insurance coverage to be purchased from anywhere, even outside the country, this would be a good start.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 1:20 p.m.

None of this is going to matter once obamba care kicks in. Everyone will have coverage and life will be good for ever more.

AAPS Student

Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 9:20 p.m.

I really hope the plaintiffs win this case. Even though more and more people are supporting gay rights, i see the trend has not hit Ann arbor yet.

Superior Twp voter

Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 3:28 a.m.

"The state cannot retain a high quality work force with this type of policy in place." So laughable! You ARE really, really, important. Irreplaceable I guess.

Basic Bob

Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 3:51 a.m.

Yes, the 3% of workers who are now irreplaceable, while the rest of us can be replaced by monkeys.


Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 2:53 a.m.

1. Children, covered. 2. Domestic partner, covered. 3. Parents, not covered.

Bill Wilson

Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 12:18 a.m.

Read it again mPope. This article is about discrimination? No one is subsidizing my health care... I pay for it. I don't get it from a corporation that is subsidized so they can pass it on to their employees. No more corporate welfare!

Basic Bob

Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 3:50 a.m.

@johnnya2, You are obviously very confused over the meaning of Non-profit. It means exactly that. There are no profits, gains, dividends, Swiss bank accounts, slush funds, or kitties. Sure, some of the executives are overpaid (and they pay income tax), but there are no profits. If they were a for-profit company and made zero profit, they would also pay zero corporate tax. Funny how that works.


Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 1:48 a.m.

WRONG, Bill your insiurance is HEAVILY subsidized by large companies every single day., You buy from BSBS. Guess what, that "non profit" does not pay taxes on its gains (what the rest of us call profits). When Ford Motor uses BCBS, they use the SAME exact buying power to lower the money they will pay YOUR physician for coverage. The idea that you did it all yourself is just moronic with no basis in fact. You just do not see a line item showing your savings from buying from BCBS.

Unusual Suspect

Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 12:58 a.m.

You're going to get in trouble for saying "gay agenda."


Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 12:31 a.m.

Im very pleased that youre able to purchase your complete health coverage Bill Wilson. The rest of us who accept employer- provided health coverage are not recipients of corporate welfare. Many of us choose employment accordingly and work very hard to earn both our pay and our benefits. Health benefits and gay agendas are unnecessarily entangled issues. They shouldnt be.

Bill Wilson

Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 11:49 p.m.

The problem is that opening employers simply do not have the monies to pay for this expansion, so they've been forced to simply drop health care benefits for all.... hurting our children. The Washington Post did a story on this recently.


Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 12:19 a.m.

I think this is disingenuous of employees. If the gay employees all contracted legal, heterosexual marriages, would employers be unable to carry their costs then? Health coverage is a basic necessity exploited as leverage in the gay debate. It shouldnt be.

Michigan Man

Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 11:15 p.m.

Just more LGBT fatigue. Long for the old days where one could make through a single day without someone invading your private space and asking about sexual orientation crap.


Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 4:35 a.m.

Like when two gay people apply for a marriage license and are denied?


Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 11:02 p.m.

Should be simple. If you are legally married then you can get benefits.


Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 1:44 a.m.

@billwilson, MY tax dollars go to MANY things i am tired of supporting, so your argument holds ZERO sway with me. I fund a stay at home mom who decides to have 6 children while her husband works for the state. Why? Because she can marry him. Why should I be forced to fund her? Also, marriage has been redefined MANY times over the years legally. I have no interest in the biblical definition of marriage because the last I checked this country was not a theocracy. It was not long ago a black man could not marry a white woman, and marriage was "redefined" to include them. What is even more interesting is no church is required to perform the ceremony of a black man and white woman if it does not want to . My aunt could not marry in a church since she was a different religion than her husband. At one time marriage was decided by parents, and the husband would get a dowrey to take on the responsibility of coring for the woman. THAT is the most traditional form of marriage there is, Should we go back to those days? If not, than you agree marriage can and should be redefined LEGALLY speaking every single day. Finally, I ask any person who does not support marriage equality to tell ANYBODY how two gay people marrying changes their marriage. If two men marry will you love your wife less? Will you say , hey this gay thing seems cool, I want to try it? Will you look at your marriage and say, this whole thing is a sham now that the homosexuals are allowed to do it? Frankly, the whole debate is a stupid one to begin with. The state should offer health care to every single citizen PERIOD.


Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 12:02 a.m.

Of which ' you people' do you refer, Bill?


Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 11:56 p.m.

Can gay people legally marry in our state?

Bill Wilson

Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 11:53 p.m.

Mpope, That's what the health care bill is meant to provide. Frankly, I buy my own Blue Cross, and I am tired of paying for the body of people who obtain benefits because my tax dollars subsidize the corporations that employ them. I'm tired of paying for you people.


Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 11:47 p.m.

Gay persons cant be married to each other because that's not what marriage is. But dont employees pay into their health policies? Yes. So employees should be free to name one adult beneficiary and any/ all legal ward children. Health benefits shouldnt be used as leverage on either side of the gay debate.

Bill Wilson

Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 11:46 p.m.

They are free to marry... just not to their own gender.


Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 11:26 p.m.

Great! Then you agree! Gay people should be able to be legally married too!


Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 11 p.m.

If an employer offers health care benefits for families, they should be offered to ALL families.


Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 2:55 p.m.

@SEC Fan Thanks for the info. Progress is being made. Delete "same sex" from my post.


Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 1:10 p.m.

@ferdcom. My employer provides full benefits to all Domestic Partners. A Domestic Partnership is defined as two adults who sign an affidavit stating they are in a long term relationship and intend to remain in it. This applies to same sex partners as well as unmarried opposite sex partners.


Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 12:50 a.m.

I have never heard of any employer offering benefits for ALL families. Even those with domestic partner benefits limit coverage to same sex, unmarried, and unrelated partners. When the ACLU backs marriage and benefit rights for ALL, they'll earn my support.


Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 11:03 p.m.

Families of choice? Families by legal marriage? A family of college buddies living together?


Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 10:58 p.m.

I'm adamantly opposed to any law that will re-define or un-define marriage to include any persons except for 2 adults, one male, one female. I'm also adamantly opposed to the federal government forcing my church to provide contraceptives as supposed health coverage. And Im adamantly opposed to any law that bans employees from including on their co-paid insurance policy another adult of their choosing. Does this seem inconsistent? Its not. In this corrupt system where medical 'treatment' is defined and driven by insurance companies, health coverage has become a basic human need. Government employee or not-- these people are paying into these benefits. They cant name beneficiaries? Redefining marriage to include that which isnt marriage is not discrimination against any persons or groups of persons. Prohibiting persons from receiving a basic human need such as health coverage is unjust discrimination.


Tue, Aug 7, 2012 : 11:43 p.m.

1. The Church defines marriage in its own way as a Sacrament. What the State does is define it for division of property and other rights it conveys. The Church need not change its definition and it won't. I think that we are getting hung up on the term "marriage" and don't consider what the State does to be "marriage" but rather a civil union (even when between an adult man and woman). I wish the State would just change what they call it. 2. Michigan already allows marriage for those 16 and older (age 15 requires permission). These are hardly adults. 3. The Church does not provide contraceptives. If the Church wants to be a business / insurance company then it will be subject to the rules and regulations of all such businesses. No religious organization, including the Church, should be able to wield its moral authority absolutely over all its employees. If one works for the Jehovah's witnesses, should they be precluded from having lifesaving transfusions, surgery or transplantations done? 4. The Church believes in universal health coverage and yet is allying itself with those who would have no such belief. I trust the Church leaders but hope they do not wade to deeply into the political fray.