Appeals Court rules against Michigan AG Schuette’s attack on state worker domestic partnership benefits

If it’s a union-negotiated contract, it’s GOT to go

The Michigan Court of Appeals smacked down a lawsuit by Michigan Tea Party Attorney General Bill Schuette that attacked a union-negotiated contract that allowed for healthcare benefits for the domestic partners unionized state employees.

The contract does not specifically reference same-sex couples but they ARE covered by it so, of course, our AG felt the need to attack it. After all, anything that benefits both teh gayz and union members is not to be tolerated.

A divided Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld extending health benefits to the live-in partners of state employees.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette challenged the state Civil Service Commission agreement with public employee unions.

Among other things, the attorney general says the policy violates Michigan’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions.

But the court’s majority said the policy makes no distinction between people in same-sex relationships and heterosexual live-in partners.

Nevertheless, Emily Dievendorf of Equality Michigan said the decision is a victory for gay rights.

The Court’s opinion (HERE [pdf]) acknowledged that a provision that excludes coverage of blood relatives is “absurd” but could find no reason that it violated the state constitution.

Plaintiff argues that the policy at issue here violates equal protection by excluding married employees from sharing their benefits with persons other than their spouses and by excluding employees from sharing their benefits with blood relatives. Quite bluntly, we agree wholeheartedly that those restrictions strike us as absurd and unfair. The restrictions excluding married employees from sharing their benefits with persons other than their spouses and excluding employees from sharing their benefits with blood relatives strike us as ridiculous. For example, at oral argument, the situation was posed that an employee could share his or her benefits with a fraternity brother but not an actual brother. Likewise, if a married employee’s spouse has his or her own health benefits, that employee would be precluded from sharing his or her benefits with, say, an adult child, or, for that matter, anyone else. Indeed, the assistant attorney general conceded at oral argument that if “everyone was in,” the policy would be acceptable. These restrictions are nothing short of ridiculous.

However, our subjective determination of absurdity is not the standard by which we review a policy for an equal protection violation. Under the rational basis standard of review, a state’s action will be upheld so long as it is rationally related to advancing a legitimate state purpose. Because statutes or rules are presumed constitutional under rational basis review, the challenger has the burden of showing the action was arbitrary and rationally unrelated to the state interest. The state actor’s actual motivations are irrelevant, and the action will be constitutional so long as it is supported by “any set of facts, either known or which could reasonably be assumed, even if such facts may be debatable.”

Basically, the court said they found the provision absurd but that’s the contract that was negotiated between the state and the UAW union negotiators so that’s that.

This is a clear victory for state government employees in same-sex relationships. If we could dispense with the utterly ridiculous ban on same-sex marriage in this state, lawsuits like this would go away.

Not surprisingly, Schuette will waste more taxpayer money by appealing to the State Supreme Court.

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