Yesterday, the Michigan Supreme Court decided a case dealing with whether or not public employers are allowed to provide health care benefits to partners of homosexuals. The Court reached that decision in a 5-2 vote in the case of National Pride At Work v. Governor of Michigan.
Here’s an excerpt from the opinion, written by Justice Stephen Markman:
We granted leave to appeal to consider whether the marriage amendment, Const 1963, art 1, § 25, which states that “the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose,” prohibits public employers from providing health-insurance benefits to their employees’ qualified same-sex domestic partners. Because we agree with the Court of Appeals that providing such benefits does violate the marriage amendment, we affirm its judgment.
The trial court held that providing health-insurance benefits to domestic partners does not violate the marriage amendment because public employers are not recognizing domestic partnerships as unions similar to marriage, given the significant distinctions between the legal effects accorded to these two unions.
However, given that the marriage amendment prohibits the recognition of unions similar to marriage “for any purpose,” the pertinent question is not whether these unions give rise to all of the same legal effects; rather, it is whether these unions are being recognized as unions similar to marriage “for any purpose.”
Recognizing this and concluding that these unions are indeed being recognized as similar unions “for any purpose,” the Court of Appeals reversed. We affirm its judgment. That is, we conclude that the marriage amendment, Const 1963, art 1, § 25, which states that “the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose,” prohibits public employers from providing health-insurance benefits to their employees’ qualified same-sex domestic partners.
Stephen J. Markman
Clifford W. Taylor
Elizabeth A. Weaver
Maura D. Corrigan
Robert P. Young, Jr.
Justice Marilyn J. Kelly wrote the following in her dissent:
The issue we decide is whether the so-called “marriage amendment” of the Michigan Constitution prevents public employers from voluntarily providing health benefits to their employees’ same-sex domestic partners. The majority has determined that it does. I disagree.
First, the language of the amendment itself prohibits nothing more than the recognition of same-sex marriages or similar unions. It is a perversion of the amendment’s language to conclude that, by voluntarily offering the benefits at issue, a public employer recognizes a union similar to marriage. Second, the circumstances surrounding the adoption of the amendment strongly suggest that Michigan voters did not intend to prohibit public employers from offering healthcare benefits to their employees’ same-sex partners. The majority decision does not represent “the law which the people have made, [but rather] some other law which the words of the constitution may possibly be made to express.”
Accordingly, I dissent.
The majority decides that the “marriage amendment” prevents public employers from voluntarily entering into contractual agreements to provide health benefits to their employees’ same-sex domestic partners. Its decision is contrary to the people’s intent as demonstrated by the circumstances surrounding the adoption of the amendment and as expressed in the amendment’s language. For
those reasons, I must dissent.
Furthermore, by proceeding as it does, the majority condones and even encourages the use of misleading tactics in ballot campaigns by ignoring the extrinsic evidence available to it. CPM petitioned to place the “marriage amendment” on the ballot, telling the public that the amendment would not prohibit public employers from offering health benefits to their employees’ samesex domestic partners. Yet CPM argued to this Court that the “plain language of Michigan’s Marriage Amendment” prohibits public employers from granting the benefits at issue. Either CPM misrepresented the meaning of the amendment to the State Board of Canvassers and to the people before the election or it misrepresents the meaning to us now. Whichever is true, this Court should not allow CPM to succeed using such antics. The result of the majority’s disregard of CPM’s preelection statements is that, in the future, organizations may be encouraged to use lies and deception to win over voters or the Court. This should be a discomforting thought for us all.
Michael F. Cavanagh
Here’s the copy of Proposal 2 of 2004:
A PROPOSAL TO AMEND THE STATE CONSTITUTION TO SPECIFY WHAT CAN
BE RECOGNIZED AS A “MARRIAGE OR SIMILAR UNION” FOR ANY PURPOSE
The proposal would amend the state constitution to provide that “the union of one man and one
woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any
And here’s an excerpt from the the Constitution (Michigan Compiled Laws, Chapter 1, Constitution of Michigan of 1963, Constitution-I, Article I, § 25):
§ 25 Marriage.
To secure and preserve the benefits of marriage for our society and for future generations of children, the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose.
Many people who disagree with the ruling cite sources from the Michigan Christian Citizens Alliance’s committee, Citizens for the Protection of Marriage (CPM), when they said that the amendment was simply about marriage. One source was a CPM brochure:
Proposal 2 is Only about Marriage
Marriage is a union between a husband and wife. Proposal 2 will keep it that way. This is not about rights or benefits or how people choose to live their life. This has to do with family, children and the way people are. It merely settles the question once and for all what marriage is—for families today and future generations.
Well, honestly, brochures aren’t legal documents. That was a brochure to get more people to vote for the amendment. It may have been unethical, but it wasn’t illegal, and the Supreme Court’s job is not to interpret a brochure, but the Constitution, and the constitution clearly states, the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose” (emphasis mine), and determining health care benefits is one of those purposes. I agree with the Court’s ruling.
I just don’t think that the government should be rewarding people for sinning. I don’t support gay marriage or civil unions as they’ve been proposed so far. What I WOULD support is the government to remove itself from marriages and give civil unions to any 2 people who wanted it (brother and sister, mother and daughter, husband and wife, a man and his neighbor, etc). That would make it so that those 2 people could have whatever benefits they want, and it removes “love” completely from the picture and makes it purely objective. But that will never happen. Why? Because gays want their time to shine, and if they are given rights with a bunch of other people, it won’t be something new and exclusive to them.
So, again, I fully support the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision in this case. It doesn’t matter what the “intentions” of the amendment were, wording is wording, and it seems pretty clear to me what that wording means.
(I will now list the other plaintiffs in this case: Becky Allen, Dorthea Agnostopoulos, Adnan Ayoub, Meghan Bellanger, Judith Block, Mary M. Brisbois, Wade Carlson, Courtney D. Chapin, Michael Chapman, Michelle Corwin, Lori Curry, Joseph Darby, Scott Dennis, Jim Etzkorn, Jill Fuller, Susan Halsey-Ceragh, Peter Hammer, Debra Harrah, Ty Hiither, Jolinda Jach, Terry Korreck, Craig Kukuk, Gary Lindsay, Kevin McMann, A.T. Miller, Kitty O’Neil, Dennis Patrick, Tom Patrick, Gregg Pizzi, Kathleen Poelker, Jerome Post, Barbara Ramber, Paul Renwick, Dahlia Schwartz, Alexandra Stern, Gwen Stokes, Ken Cyberski, Joanne Beemon, Carol Borgeson, Michael Falk, and Matt Scott. “Plaintiff National Pride at Work, Inc., is a nonprofit organization of the American Federation of Labor–Council of Industrial Organizations. The remaining plaintiffs are employees of the city of Kalamazoo, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Eastern Michigan University, Wayne State University, the Clinton/Eaton/Ingham County Community Mental Health Board, or the state of Michigan and those employees’ same-sex partners. Because the benefit plans of Eastern Michigan University, Wayne State University, and the Eaton/Clinton/Ingham Community Mental Health Board are not part of the record, they are not discussed. Likewise, this opinion does not address whether private employers can provide health-insurance benefits to their employees’ same-sex domestic partners.”)