The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website; press release] asked a federal judge on Friday to overturn a Michigan law that bans many public agencies from providing health care to same-sex partners of their employees. The ACLU's lawsuit [complaint, PDF] argues that the Michigan law is discriminatory because it denies coverage only to domestic partners while allowing government employers to offer health benefits to all other family members, including spouses. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of five same-sex couples who contend that the Michigan law unconstitutionally denies health benefits to same-sex partners in committed relationships while affording these benefits to partners in heterosexual couples. ACLU attorney Amanda Goad argued that the law seeks to single out same-sex couples for discrimination:
This discriminatory law serves no purpose other than to single out a small minority of people and deprive them of critical protections. 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.It is not yet clear when the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan [official website] will hear the case.
Employer benefits for partners in same-sex couples has been a contentious legal issue recently. In July the Obama administration amended regulations [JURIST report] to offer same-sex domestic partners of federal employees some retirement benefits. The new regulation [text, PDF] adds "same-sex domestic partners to the class of persons for which an insurable interest is presumed to exist," which allows the employee to designate their partner as a recipient to their annuity after they pass away. Another regulation change [text] also permits children of an employee's same-sex domestic partner to receive a child-care subsidy in some instances. In June a same-sex couple in New York filed a class-action lawsuit [JURIST report] against a hospital seeking to compel the hospital to provide spousal healthcare benefits. In April a judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that denial of insurance benefits to the same-sex spouse of a federal employee is discriminatory.