State Attorney General Mike Cox announced Friday he would appeal last week’s ruling in favor of domestic partner benefits.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, which filed the lawsuit resulting in last Tuesday’s ruling, has indicated it will fight attempts to overturn the decision.
The Ingham County Circuit Court ruling permits public institutions in the state to provide benefits such as health care to the same-sex partners of employees despite Michigan’s constitution ban against same-sex marriages.
The University will continue to support the right of public employers to offer partner benefits.
“We will be hopeful that the decision the lower court issued will be upheld,” University spokeswoman Julie Peterson said.
The University, which issued an amicus brief to the circuit court in support of partner benefits, will file another amicus brief with an appellate court if permitted, Peterson added.
Circuit Judge Joyce Draganchuk’s decision was based on her determination that health insurance is a benefit of employment, not marriage. She therefore ruled that providing such benefits does not amount to a recognition of marriage or a civil union, both of which are prohibited in multiple instances by state law, including a constitutional amendment approved by voters last year.
Besides Cox’s appeal, Draganchuk’s ruling also faces a challenge from two state Senate resolutions introduced by Sen. Alan Cropsey (R-DeWitt) Thursday.
The resolutions call on the Michigan Supreme Court to issue a temporary restraining order preventing the state from providing partner benefits until the high court rules in the case.
But Liz Boyd, spokeswoman for Gov. Jennifer Granholm, said the governor would honor her earlier pledge of providing same-sex benefits to state employees in the event of a favorable decision, by presenting the Civil Service Commission with a provision of the state-employee contract granting same-sex benefits.
The state has presented the contract to the commission but has not yet presented the provision. The commission must approve the contract before it takes effect.
Boyd could not say whether Cox’s decision to appeal the ruling would affect the implementation of the provision because she said she was unable to reach the state employer.
“We are not surprised (by Cox’s action), but we expect to prevail in the appeal,” she said.
The University continued to offer partner benefits to its employees even after Cox issued a nonbinding opinion in March, overturned by Tuesday’s ruling. Cox’s opinion stated that Kalamazoo’s policy of offering partner benefits was not permitted under the new amendment to the state constitution.
Kalamazoo has said it would defer to last week’s ruling, but it is unclear what the city will do after Cox’s announcement. The city planned to stop providing partner benefits January before last Tuesday’s decision was handed down.
A third potential challenge to last week’s ruling comes from a pending appeal of a 2003 decision in favor of the Ann Arbor Public Schools’ policy of providing same-sex benefits. A ruling in the case conflicting with the Ingham court’s decision would provide an avenue to a higher court.