Sunday, June 17, 2007

MI Supreme Court and Domestic Partner Benefits

Between The Lines Newspaper
From issue number 1522
Return to PrideSource

Originally printed 5/31/06

Capitol Correspondent

LANSING - Just days after more than 100 citizens marched on the Hall of Justice demanding the Michigan Supreme Court hear the case on domestic partner benefits, the Michigan Supreme Court announced today that it would hear arguments.

"We are very happy that the Michigan Supreme Court is going to give us another chance to argue this case," said Triangle Foundation's Director of Policy Sean Kosofsky. "The appeals court decision was a miscarriage of justice and poorly written and poorly decided."

The high court agreed to hear arguments, but did not issue a stay in the immediate effect clause of the original Appeals Court decision. The refusal to stay the Appeals Court decision was a 5-2 vote, while the agreement to hear the case was unanimous at 7-0 vote.

"The Michigan Court of Appeals upheld lies and deceit of the proponents of Proposal 2," says Doug Meeks, President of Michigan Equality and an attorney in Lansing. "Basically the Court of Appeals said there are no relationships between same-sex couples. That's fundamentally unconstitutional in my opinion."

Dr. Thomas Rasmusson, a professor of Constitution Law at Cooley Law School and a Lansing Community College Board of Trustees member, said the ruling failed to look at several vital issues.

"Article 1 section 10 of the U.S. Constitution says no state shall impair the obligation of contract and it clearly does that," he said of the amendment and the ruling. He added however, that looking at a limited state scope, as the Court of Appeals did, he can see how they arrived at their conclusions. "It is not the decision I would have reached."

Rasmusson introduced a resolution with the Lansing Community College Board of Trustees directing legal counsel to research the potential of filing a federal court action to retain the college's domestic partner program and affirmative action programs. The proposal passed unanimously through the board, which is waiting for its law firm to return an opinion to it.

According to Rasmusson, universities and educational institutions have traditionally been treated differently under state law, specifically regarding their independence.

"There is another issue they kind of treat. The amendment to the state constitution has to be read within the context of the contract that make universities autonomous from state regulation," he said. "Universities are there to seek the truth and have an historic role to be an academic asylum. When you read those together, the amendment should not be read (in order) to touch colleges and universities."

Jay Kaplan of the ACLU of Michigan says he will ask the high court to send it back to the trial court, which ruled domestic partner benefits did not violate the state constitutional amendment and to do fact finding on voter intent.

"We are going to ask that the Supreme Court remand the case to the lower court to find the voter intent," he said. "Because you have two separate interpretations, there seems to be some ambiguity."

No date for arguments has been set.

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