MI Marriage Vote Means Public Employee Same-Sex Partners Can't Receive Benefits

March 17, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - When Michigan voted in November to define marriage as an act between a man and a woman, they also, by extension, ended health and other benefits for same-sex partners of public employees in the state.

This is the ruling of state Attorney General Mike Cox, according to the Detroit Free Press. The opinion was issued in response to a question about benefits for employees of the city of Kalamazoo and an unidentified Attorney General’s office spokesman told the newspaper that the ruling would also cover employees at state universities and public schools. Without a contradictory ruling from a court, such Attorney General opinions are generally binding, according to the Free Press.

Cox did, however, said that private employees were not affected by the change – known as Proposal 2 – and the application is only meant for future contracts.

Cox’s logic for denying same-sex partners equivalent benefits as more traditional relationships rests on an extension of the Michigan vote. “There can be little doubt,” he wrote in his opinion, that giving equal benefits to all couples “constitutes recognition or acknowledgement of the validity of same-sex relationships.” Cox did note that benefits could continue to be offered to someone designated by the employee; they cannot be based the notion that same-sex relationships are equal to different-sex relationships.

Groups supporting equal rights spoke out against the decision while the move also garnered support. State Representative Jack Hoogendyk, the official who requested the opinion, heralded it as a “victory for traditional marriage,” according to the Free Press.

Both sides expect the issue to ultimately be decided in court, according to the newspaper.