Magazine article Academe

Michigan Domestic-Partner Benefits Denied

Magazine article Academe

Michigan Domestic-Partner Benefits Denied

Article excerpt

In February, the Michigan Court of Appeals issued a decision in National Pride at Work, Inc. v. Granholm, concluding that Michigan public universities cannot provide domestic-partner benefits to the same-sex partners of employees or the partners' children.

In November 2004, Michigan voters approved an amendment to the Michigan constitution stating that "one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose." The Michigan attorney general issued an opinion holding that the amendment precluded public employers, including public colleges and universities, from providing domesticpartner benefits. National Pride at Work (a nonprofit organization working with the American Civil Liberties Union) filed suit against the state, asking the court to clarify the issue and declare the attorney general's interpretation incorrect. The lower court issued a ruling declaring that the amendment "does not prohibit public employers from entering into contractual agreements with their employees to provide domestic-partner benefits." However, the attorney general appealed the case.

The national AAUP joined the Michigan AAUP conference in an amicus brief to the appellate court arguing that public universities have a right, and a need, to offer benefits to the same-sex partners of employees and to those partners' children. To forbid such benefits, the brief stated, would be an unconstitutional interference with the First Amendment academic freedom rights and contractual rights of universities and their faculty and a violation of AAUP policy against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. …

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