Michigan Court of Appeal strikes down benefits for unmarried couples, straight or gay

The Michigan Court of Appeal recently held that the state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage is broad enough to ban the state from giving marital employment benefits to any unmarried couple, straight or gay: Michigan court’s ruling would ban partner benefits statewide:

The case is likely to go to the state Supreme Court, according to the article.

Is the wording of Michigan provision similar to the other state amendments? Is this case likely to be a persuasive precedent for other states? Is it likely to cause any re-thinking of the amendment?

I’m a little confused. I thought that refusing benefits to unmarried couples was the norm. That’s actually why my husband and I finally tied the knot-- so I could be covered under his medical insurance plan.

In recent years, businesses have begun to offer benefits to unmarried partners. It makes them more attractive to potential employees. The fact that state offices can’t do so makes them less competitive with the private sector.

I believe in Michigan it is still illegal for unmarried adults to cohabitate anyway. This does not surprise me in the least.

If two people are unwilling to commit to each other, why should the state commit to them?

Marriage really doesn’t have all that much to do with commitment. It’s a legal seal of recognition on a commitment which already exists.

My, this is a remarkable argument. What exactly is the state “committing”? Recognition of their private arrangement?

If it’s your suggestion that it betokens a lack of commitment to not contractually commit to something in violation of the law, I find myself startled. What precisely are you suggesting they should do to show their commitment?

Huh? The state made it illegal for gays to commit to each other. How convenient for your argument.

I hope any unmarried and cohabiting people voting for the amendment are happy now, and also the parents of such. I’d assume this would broaden the base of support for repeal. The war against cohabitation is already lost just about everywhere.

This is no surprise. Many predicted this result before the measure passed.

Sort of. Michigan law prohibits “lewd and lascivious” cohabitation. The statute has been read not to prohibit most cohabitation.

In *People v. Davis * (1940) for example, the court found that two married couples who had swapped partners and lived together were not guilty under the statute despite their admissions that they had cohabited. In *McCready v. Hoffius * (1998), the court again held that a landlord could not reject unmarried couples based on the statute because no evidence of an intention to lewdly and lasciviously associate had been produced, despite their intention to cohabit.

http://www.courts.michigan.gov/mji/resources/sabb/Chap3OtherRelatedCrimes.PDF (pp. 170-172)

Adultery remains a felony in Michigan, btw. But the Michigan Attorney General recently confessed to the crime. Not only was he not prosecuted–he was reelected.

I take this highly personally. I tell you my 10+ years with my SO is a commitment, and one longer than many married couples make.

When I do get married, it will be for the fun of getting our families together, the legal benefits, and so that we can speak for each other’s medical needs. I don’t need that piece of paper to affirm my commitment. I am already committed to him.

I don’t feel that *every *couple living together should automatically be given marital rights, but I do feel there should be some proviso for people like my SO and I, who are and have been together for so long.

Here’s the case, btw: http://courtofappeals.mijud.net/DOCUMENTS/OPINIONS/FINAL/COA/20070201_C265870_104_265870.OPN.PDF

Dude, we need to do one of two things in this state: recognize ALL marriage, or recognize NO marriage.

I’d much rather recognize all of them, but picking and choosing is pretty shoddy, if you ask me.

Michigan:

http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(fbbrdliviyzcuc3ps2nhbn55))/mileg.aspx?page=getobject&objectname=mcl-Article-I-25&queryid=16731533&highlight=marriage

Arkansas:

Possible

Georgia:

Less possible.

Kentucky:

Possible.

Mississippi:

Tougher.

Montana:

Tougher.

That’s a few of the last batch that passed. You can find all of them here: http://www.domawatch.org/stateissues/index.html

It might result in some amendments getting reworded. I doubt it will cause those who voted for the amendments to reconsider their objection to the recognition of same-sex marriages.

I think you have hit on the problem the state has, though…how is the state supposed to know how long you have been with your SO, and how much of committment you have? A marriage certificate is a very cut-and-dried way for the state to be clear on who your SO is, and how significant the committment is that you have. When you say that you don’t need the piece of paper, that’s true…you and your SO I’m sure are very clear on how committed you are. The piece of paper isn’t so much for you, it’s the state’s way of keeping track of these things.

Although some predicted it before the vote, some of the most vocal proponents of the gay marriage ban assured people this was not the intent of the effort–and suggested that these were merely scare tactics by the opposition. The Michigan chapter of the AFA, for example, assured voters that they had no interest in stopping anyone’s benefits.

Now they are singing a different tune.

I have to say, I haven’t been following the issue (in Michigan) closely because I was against the amendment on general principles.

But this is a bit kooky:

From their brief:

http://www.afamichigan.org/2006/01/05/afa-michigan-files-amicus-brief-with-appeals-court/#more-138

http://www.afamichigan.org/FINAL.AMICUS.BRIEF.pdf

So they originally said it had nothing to do with benefits and after the thing passed, they say it does and that everyone should have known it before the vote?

If this were true, then no state in the country would recognize common law marriages. As it is, there are many states which give recognition to a wide range of legal relationships (marriage or otherwise) without any formal piece of paper.