August 8, 2012
By Scottie Thomaston
Back in January, Prop 8 Trial Tracker wrote about a new challenge to a Michigan law banning some same-sex partners’ benefits filed by the ACLU. Michigan’s governor had signed the new ban on December 22:
In a move that didn’t receive that much attention in the midst of the holiday season, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law on December 22 a ban on some public institutions’ same-sex partner benefits. Although public universities and state government employees are exempt from the new law, other school and municipal employees have been directly affected. In a particularly offensive (and outdated) comment supporting the legislation, lead sponsor Representative David Agema said, “time and again, Michigan residents have said ‘no’ to paying for the health benefits of the roommates and unmarried partners of public employees.
Yesterday, arguments began in the case, in district court. More that 60 people were in the courtroom to hear testimony:
Ramber, who has glaucoma, arthritis and might face blindness if she can’t access care, will lose her benefits Dec. 31 when her partner’s employer — the city of Kalamazoo — stops offering them.
“I’m scared to death about losing my benefits. And my eyesight? The thought of losing that is terrible,” Ramber testified before Lawson, who is considering the request to strike down the law. “It’s been hard. My son doesn’t understand why this law treats us differently than other families.”
The state’s arguments sound familiar: they argued that the state has a right to save its money, and they argued the state has a strong interest in “protecting marriage.” Michigan doesn’t allow same-sex marriage so the state says that these couples are different based on the fact that their relationships are not legally protected, and not entitled to benefits.