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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 21 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 08
Michigan governor goes to court to uphold anti-Gay discrimination
Section One
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Michigan governor goes to court to uphold anti-Gay discrimination

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Michigan's Republican Governor Rick Snyder filed a motion February 17, asking a federal judge to uphold a law depriving Gay and Lesbian partners of public employees any access to domestic partner benefits.

In June 2013, U.S. District Judge David Lawson issued a preliminary injunction in a suit challenging Public Act 297, preventing state agencies from implementing it. Lawson wrote at the time that the plaintiffs - several Michigan public employees and their partners - had a good chance of proving that the law violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

'The plaintiffs fortify their position with statements from the sponsors of the legislation suggesting that Public Act 297 targets same-sex partners and was motivated by animus,' Lawson wrote in his order granting the injunction, which did not require public employers to offer benefits if they were not doing so previously.

In the February 17 motion, filed by the Attorney General's office on behalf of Snyder, the state argues that the law is necessary to reduce the cost of government.

'Public Act 297 is a logical and cohesive part of the effort to reduce costs and to address the fiscal insecurity of local governments that has increased exponentially over the past five years,' the state's attorneys wrote in the motion. 'It is not singular and does not target same-sex couples.'

Lawson's 2013 injunction order seems to dismiss the financial argument as a non-starter, however.

'The only policy issue that the defendant has identified is the desire to save money. But a desire to save money cannot possibly be sufficiently important to require the court to abstain from deciding the constitutional issues raised by the plaintiffs. If it were, states could effectively insulate themselves from constitutional review by the federal courts of virtually any law by citing budgetary concerns,' Lawson wrote.

Public Act 297 was passed in 2011, after Republicans won control of both houses of Michigan's legislature and the Governor's office in their 2010 election sweep.

The suit challenging Public Act 297 is only one of two major suits over the rights of same-sex couples in Michigan.

In another case, a Detroit couple is challenging the state's limits on second-parent adoption rights. Jayne Rouse and April DeBoer say that state law violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

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