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Detroit News - Prop 2 Supporters Should Keep Word on Allowing Partner Benefits

Detroit News - Prop 2 Supporters Should Keep Word on Allowing Partner Benefits

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Published by: Joshua Pugh on Oct 26, 2012
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10/26/2012

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1 of 1 DOCUMENTThe Detroit News
November 
18, 2004 Thursday No dot Edition
Prop 2 supporters should keep word on allowing partner benefits;Six confusing words in new amendment on marriage must not be used todeny health insurance to Michigan's gay families
BYLINE:
Jay Kaplan and Kary L. Moss
SECTION:
OPINIONS; Pg. 17A
LENGTH:
755 wordsThis is a sad time in Michigan's legal history. On Nov. 2, a majority of voters approved an amendment to Michigan'sconstitution. The language, "Only the union between one man and one woman in marriage shall be recognized asmarriage or similar union for any purpose" seemed simple, but it isn't.For those concerned with keeping gay people from marrying, this state already had a law prohibiting
same-sex
 
marriage
.The ballot initiative was thus unnecessary.But, as we argued before the election, its passage could do even more. What is unclear is how the amendment's last sixwords, "or similar union for any purpose," will be interpreted.Will that language also prohibit domestic partner benefits, including health insurance?Proponents of Proposal 2, in public statements throughout the campaign, emphatically stated that this amendment wassimply about marriage.Marlene Elwell, chair of Citizens for Protection of Marriage, was quoted as stating, "This has nothing to do with takingbenefits away. This is about marriage between a man and a woman."Spokesperson Kristina Hemphill said, "There's nothing in this amendment ... that will erase anything on the books."Even Gary Glenn, of the American Family Association of Michigan, was quoted as saying, "the proposal will not affectbenefits offered to people living together or in same-sex relationships."What is frightening is the ambiguity of those six words. Not surprisingly, the day after the election, Glenn contradicted hisprevious statement.If these words are broadly interpreted by Michigan courts, both heterosexual and same-sex couples (and their children)could lose important health care benefits they currently receive from their employers.The so-called "morals" issue that has been so touted these last few weeks as having determined the election rings false toour ears. We know people across the political spectrum care deeply about children -- that they have enough to eat, thatthey can receive medical care when they need it, and that they benefit from living within loving, committed familyrelationships.We can't believe Proposal 2 supporters would take any other position. Yet, lost in the debate about this ballot initiativehave been the real people who stand to lose from its passage.We know from the people who call us for help that they stand to lose a great deal. For example, one same-sex couple we
 
know -- Dennis and Tom Patrick -- are the parents of three children. Tom works part-time so he can take care of Josh,who is developmentally disabled. Dennis works for a state university that provides domestic partner insurance coveragefor their family. Should the university discontinue insurance coverage for Tom, he will need to work full-time and spendless time home caring for his child. Another couple has been in a committed relationship for four years. One is pregnant and the two women are expectingtwins in March. One of the women hopes to leave her job and stay at home to care for the twins.The other partner's employer provides domestic partner health care coverage, which means that they can do this. Butbesides their child care issues, the pregnant mother has been diagnosed with diabetes, which involves costly monthlytreatment.If her partner's health insurance is taken away, the whole family may be in jeopardy.We will hold Marlene Elwell, Gary Glenn and Kristine Hemphill to their words. Should there be any attempts to take awaydomestic partner benefits from employees and their families, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan will workaggressively to contain the potential damage of this amendment.Michigan is a state that has always recognized and supported diversity and an environment that welcomes all those whoseek to live here. We cannot allow those six confusing words to change that.Lost in the debate about (Proposal 2) have been the real people who stand to lose from its passage.Domestic partner benefits in MichiganThe following governmental groups in the state have some sortof domestic partner benefits:MunicipalitiesCity of Ann Arbor.City of KalamazooWashtenaw County.Ingham County.Public schools Ann Arbor.Birmingham.Farmington.State universitiesUniversity of Michigan.Michigan State UniversityWayne State University.Central Michigan University.Eastern Michigan University.

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