Federal Judge Hears Challenge Against Michigan Domestic Partner Health Care Ban

DETROIT – The American Civil Liberties Union asked a federal judge on Tuesday, August 7 to strike down a state law that bans many public entities from providing health insurance to the domestic partners of their employees. The ACLU also asked the judge to block the ban until a decision is issued.

The ACLU and Kirkland & Ellis LLP are representing five gay and lesbian public employees, as well as their long-term domestic partners who either have lost their health insurance or will lose their insurance shortly as a result of the law.

"We have no interest being in a legal battle with the state of Michigan, but standing up for the rights of our families is more important right now,” said Peter Ways, an Ann Arbor teacher whose partner will lose his benefits. “This law targets gay families in a very specific way, sending the message that we don't count and that we are not wanted. The state cannot retain a high quality work force with this type of policy in place."

The lawsuit charges that the new law discriminates by forcing local employers to cancel family benefits for gay and lesbian employees in committed relationships while heterosexual employees can marry and maintain family health protections.

“The governor tried to pass this unfair statute off as a cost-cutting measure,” said Kary L. Moss, executive director of the ACLU of Michigan. “Yet, this law will have no impact on state spending, but will have a huge impact on families who have lost the security of caring for their loved ones.”

The law only bars domestic partners from receiving health care coverage, while allowing government employers to offer these benefits to all other family members, including parents, siblings, uncles and cousins.

“This discriminatory law serves no purpose other than to single out a small minority of people and deprive them of critical protections,” said Amanda C. Goad, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “The state is unconstitutionally interfering with the benefit plans established by city and county governments, school districts, and community colleges, and that’s hurting hardworking employees and their families.”

Plaintiffs in the case are Theresa Bassett and Carol Kennedy of Ann Arbor, Ways and Joe Breakey of Ann Arbor, Barbara Ramber and JoLinda Jach of Kalamazoo, Denise Miller and Michelle Johnson of Kalamazoo and Gerardo Ascheri and Doak Bloss of Lansing.

More information on this case, including profiles of clients, can be found at: http://www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/bassett-et-al-v-snyder

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