In February, I wrote about Michigan’s banning of domestic partner benefits for all public employees. This almost exclusively targeted gay public employees — teachers, university employees, and local government workers — because our state does not allow gay marriage. Well, for once in a long time, there might actually be some good news on the horizon for gay residents of our state. It’s looking more and more likely that this discriminatory law may be repealed.
The first bit of hope came when Governor Snyder actually signed the law. Perhaps the protests from professors and university presidents across the state actually got through to Snyder, because he claimed he would only sign the law if it didn’t affect public universities.
I was more than skeptical of Snyder’s claim at first. He simply announced that his legal team was confident the law would not apply to public universities, yet some Republican legislators still contest this claim. Why didn’t he call for a clear provision in the bill excluding universities? From what I’ve read, though, I think Snyder’s right. Public universities in Michigan are guaranteed a level of constitutional autonomy, so that they can remain independent places of learning. Furthermore, after speaking to some professors myself, I’ve been assured public universities will put up a hard fight against the law in court if it does apply.
But none of this matters to other public employees who don’t work for the university. The partners of gay school teachers would still lose benefits, but not if the American Civil Liberties Union has anything to say about it. They are currently suing the state of Michigan over the domestic partner benefit law, already having won a similar case in Arizona. Their case charges that the new law violates gay Michigan residents’ rights to equal protection.
“This is not about politics or ideology for us…. this is about real families who are facing the real consequences of discriminatory laws. Just like our colleagues whose families will continue to receive health insurance, we want to care for our families.”
For Peter Ways’ family and tens of thousands of families like his across the state, there is new hope. In the meantime, these families are stuck in a state of anxiety– the benefits they deserve in the hands of lawyers and judges. Let’s hope Michigan moves back towards justice and equality.
By: Mike Guisinger