Update: Mich. domestic partner benefits

As we noted back on Mar. 20, 2005, some Religious Right campaigners appear to have talked out of both sides of their mouths on the question of whether their proposed anti-gay-marriage amendments in states like Michigan would put an end to the availability of existing health insurance benefits for the domestic partners of employees at public entities such as cities and universities. When urging voters to approve Proposal 2, these campaigners suggested that the measure would leave existing benefits undisturbed; once it was on the books, they supported efforts to invoke it to nullify the benefits. Now a Michigan appeals court has agreed that Proposal 2 does ban public-employee DP benefits. Ed Brayton of Dispatches from the Culture Wars has details (Jul. 5, 2006; Feb. 4 and Feb. 5, 2007; see also Nov. 22, 2006) on the, um, fancy footwork engaged in by two Religious Right litigation groups, the Thomas More Law Center and the Alliance Defense Fund. For more, see John Corvino, “A tragic lie in Michigan”, Between the Lines/Independent Gay Forum, Feb. 8; Jonathan Cohn, “Spouse Abuse”, The New Republic, Feb. 15; Andrew Sullivan, Feb. 15.


  • In fairness, opponents are doing the same thing now. Those who argued against the amendment on the grounds that it would invalidate domestic partner benefits are the ones arguing now that it does not invalidate them.

    Don’t we have a long tradition of doing this in our country, all the way back to the ratification of the Constitution? When a proposal is being argued, one side says that is allows unconscionable tyranny while the other says such an interpretation is ridiculous; the sides switch the instant it becomes law. I am thinking of Hamilton and Madison, from the Convention through the Federalist Papers to the First Bank of the US.

  • Zubon: Should we not expect more than cheap tricks and outright lies from supposedly religious organizations?

  • Well, it’s nice to see some slight acknowledgment of the dishonesty of the radical Right here at overlawyered.com. But you don’t want this trend to get out of hand or you’ll be forced to shut down this website.

  • Mike: I must leave to your discretion what you can reasonably expect, particularly of coalition politics. I think supporters of Proposal 2 were naive or kidding themselves if they did not expect this. Decompose that as you will into dishonesty, misunderstanding, ignorance, or wishful thinking.

    This reminds me of having read that some people supported the Eighteenth Amendment under the impression that “intoxicating liquors” did not include beer or wine. I can see how “temperance” could be a misleading term, but…

  • Why would they have to shut down the website?

  • Unbelievable. Either you know the difference between offering benefits on an equal basis to all unmarried public employees and offering benefits to a select group based on their living arrangement and are being dishonest (as you are accusing someone else of doing in this post) or you are ignorant.

    What ADF has said about the benefits issue is consistent, logical, respectful to the law and easy to understand.

    If there are to be benefits granted to public employees in a state with a marriage amendent, those benefits may not be granted on a basis that creates a marriage-like status. ADF has said that if state employers wishes to grant benefits, go right ahead, as long as all unmarried employees are treated the same. This way, everyone will have access to the same bundle of benefits. Who, aside from radical homosexual activists, could argue with that?

    Please stop spreading this “double-talk” myth. It is below this site.

  • Following a post by Mike Cernovich, commenters at Crime and Federalism are also discussing this question. Here’s an excerpt from an on-point comment by Ivan of Joint Strike Weasel:

    From post at [Alliance Defense Fund blog] http://www.constitutionallycorrect.com/archive/2006/10/13/168.aspx , “Do the proposed amendments undermine benefits? [para break] No. The proposed amendments prohibit only counterfeit marital institutions such as civil unions or domestic partnerships.”

    From http://www.constitutionallycorrect.com/archive/2007/02/02/302.aspx , “The benefits plans violated the Michigan marriage amendment, the Court of Appeals rightly reasoned, because the government plans at issue extended health insurance benefits to the same-sex partner of an employee, if the employee and partner showed that they are in a relationship substantially meeting the statutory qualifications a man and a woman must meet in order to be legally married (i.e., the partners are above a certain age, they not blood relatives, they have the mental capacity to consent to the relationship, they are not married to someone else, etc.). Whether the benefit is health insurance or season tickets to the U. of Michigan men’s’ water polo team, governmental units in Michigan may not condition receipt of the benefit on being in a relationship that tracks with the state statutory requirements for marriage.” (emphasis omitted)

    The ADF tries to give a nod to consistency by trying to say they’re against benefits based on similarity to marital status, rather than something like financial dependency. But they didn’t say anything like that in the lead-up. If they’d initially said, “Yes, it would void relationship-based benefits, but they could be reenacted on other bases,” then they’d have been fine. But they would have had to acknowledge that the amendment would void some benefits, which they refused to do. At best, they engaged in serious double-speak, but effectively they lied, and no amount of vague “arguments” about posts taken out of context or multiple organizations can change that.

    It might be added that ADF had good reason to know that the benefits would not quickly or readily be re-enacted on other bases (as by extending health coverage to sisters, friends, and others living under one roof) because such extensions would inevitably raise new controversies in themselves and perhaps be quite expensive for employers to implement.

  • While I don’t endorse the tactic, it has certainly ben used (repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly) AGAINST the “regligious right” for at least most of my lifetime, so it’s certainly hard to say they are doing anything the system considers unfair (as their opponents have not been punished for it).