DETROIT (AP) — A federal judge on Friday blocked Michigan’s ban on domestic partner benefits for employees who work for public schools or local governments, saying state lawmakers simply wanted to punish gays and lesbians.
U.S. District Judge David Lawson said plaintiffs who have lost benefits or been forced to buy expensive private health insurance have made a “plausible claim” that the law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The decision came nearly a year after he heard arguments in the lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.
“It is hard to argue with a straight face that the primary purpose — indeed, perhaps the sole purpose — of the statute is other than to deny health benefits to the same-sex partners of public employees. But that can never be a legitimate governmental purpose,” Lawson said as he ordered an injunction.
The law, passed in 2011 by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Snyder, ended insurance for people whose domestic partners work for certain public employers. It’s somewhat narrow, exempting colleges and universities, as well as most state government workers whose benefits are set by the Michigan Civil Service Commission.
A handful of school districts had offered benefits before the law took effect in 2012, along with Ingham and Washtenaw counties and the cities of Ann Arbor, East Lansing and Kalamazoo.