"'The Michigan Court of Appeals decision never said that public employers could not provide health care coverage to domestic partners of employees,' Kaplan wrote in an e-mail. He said that employers can provide health insurance coverage for domestic partners as long as they do not specifically recognize the domestic partner relationship — by filing domestic partner benefit forms, for example — when determining criteria for insurance eligibility."
Kalamazoo Alliance for Equality, a homosexual activist group, said last June in a news release: "The Michigan Court of Appeals did not say that health insurance coverage for domestic partners is illegal. The court said that public employers cannot use criteria that recognizes the domestic partner relationship."
Well, I guess that settles that. Or does it? Let's take a look at how the city of East Lansing and Michigan State U are trying to work around the state constitution in order to continue extending benefits to same-sex partners without explicitly calling it extending benefits to same-sex partners.
MSU’s Other Eligible Individual program, which takes effect next month, is a pilot endeavor designed to provide benefits to individuals selected by employees. That will, in effect, allow same-sex couples to keep domestic partner benefits as well as extend benefits to unmarried opposite-sex couples for the first time.
When MSU approved domestic-partner benefits in 1997, opposite-sex couples were specifically excluded from benefits on the grounds that they could marry. According to the program’s guidelines, an MSU employee who has not specified a spouse may select an individual to receive health and dental coverage. This individual cannot be related to the employee by blood. The two must have shared a residence for 18 months on a non-tenant basis.
While this may prove to be a workable end-run around the constitutional prohibition on state recognition of non-straight marriages, it's somewhat disingenuous and seems, on its face, to be open to equal-protection challenges. Leave aside for a moment the wink-wink, nudge-nudge quality of a rule that prohibits you from claiming a beneficiary on the basis of a committed romantic relationship, but requires you to have shared a residence with your beneficiary for a year and a half before that person becomes eligible for coverage. And try to ignore the differential valuation of your relationship when married partners get coverage from day one, while your relationship is required to demonstrate the potential for longevity for a year and a half--be sure to brush well and floss twice a day in the interim--a period of time during which your straight colleague could divorce and re-marry three times, each time with the option of immediately signing his blushing bride onto his healthcare package, no questions asked.
Attempting maintaining benefits for domestic partners with just a bit of semantic sleight-of-hand doesn't fly with the Michigan branch of the AFA. In response to the Jay Kaplan e-mail (cited by Anonymous in the original post's comments), which concludes , “the new criteria developed by MSU address this issue. All public employers can provide coverage for (domestic partnerships) using these criteria,” we get this:
Not necessarily, says Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan. Glenn, who co-wrote Proposal 2, is unsure whether the MSU program violates the state Constitution.
“If MSU is just trying to cleverly restrict eligibility only to your unmarried sex partner, then I think the courts would eventually find this policy to be unconstitutional,” Glenn said.
Curiously, Glenn has no problem with an expanded benefits program adopted over in Ann Arbor, even though it includes gays too.
Glenn cited a similar proposal by the University of Michigan’s graduate employees organization that would allow a staff or faculty member to select any individual as a beneficiary. He said this program would be constitutional.
“Any employee could put a sick grandmother on health insurance, or a next door neighbor, or a homosexual partner,” Glenn said. “Those benefits would have nothing whatsoever to do with U of M, as a government employer, recognizing a homosexual relationship as being equal or similar to marriage as a basis for providing benefits.”
So admitting gay couples to the dental plan party unacceptably destroys the sanctity and specialness of marriage--and is generally cited by anti-gay howlers as them being forced to subsidize a perversion that squicks them out--but throwing the doors open and recognizing a grandmother-granddaughter relationship or platonic roommate relationship or next door neighbor relationship or single guy-homeless guy in the culvert relationship "as being equal or similar to marriage as the basis for providing benefits," while also incidentally recognizing gay relationships the same way, doesn't diminish the special sacred juju of marriage in their eyes? An institution is only wrecked when the gays are the only ones let inside the velvet rope?
News flash to Gary Glenn: even the blanket plan still treats gay couples as equal beneficiaries to straight couples. Are you really okay with that, or do you just enjoy forcing institutions to jump through multiple complicated, expensive hoops in order to get things back to exactly the way they were before you poked your nose into other people's business?
Of course, this whole thing may have been a wicked clever ploy by the American Family Association to force public institutions to formally divorce healthcare coverage from "marriage," thus forcing employers to support families in all forms, whether that means traditionally married straight couples, gay couples, single guys and their ailing grandmothers, two elderly sisters, whatever. While I would love to believe that last one, it stretches credulity.
Oh, and Anonymous? Don't pretend that the Michigan lawsuits didn't really mean anything in the end for the gay couples in that state who have either had their benefits summarily yanked or will have them yanked when their current contracts expire. If they didn't have the effect of punishing same-sex couples for failing to adhere to your personal beliefs, they would not have been filed, nor would they have been appealed up to the state supreme court, nor would the state universities and municipal school districts be scrambling now to formulate policies with language even an AFA attorney won't be able to weasel into a Deny Coverage directive. You can have domestic partner benefits as long as you don't call them domestic partner benefits has a short version, and it goes something like get back in the closet, faggots, and that's a message that tends to ring out loud and clear, no matter how many layers of equivocation you try to layer over it.