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First Post-DOMA Decision Protects Michigan’s Domestic Partner Benefits

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"First Post-DOMA Decision Protects Michigan’s Domestic Partner Benefits"

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JoLinda Jach and Barbara Ramber, plaintiffs in the case. (Credit: ACLU)

The landmark case United States v. Windsor overturning the Defense of Marriage Act may only have been decided Wednesday, but it has already been applied in another case. Five same-sex couples sued the state of Michigan challenging Public Act 297, a law banning the same-sex partners of state employees from receiving medical benefits. On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge David Lawson issued an injunction against the law preventing it from taking effect because it violated the couples’ equal protection under the law.

Lawson cited Windsor to explain that the intent behind Public Act 297 was discrimination against gays and lesbians:

The Court takes guidance from the Supreme Court’s decision invalidating DOMA, which determined legislative purpose by looking to the “history of . . . enactment” and the statute’s “own text.” Looking to the history and text of Public Act 297, 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.”

Read the full decision.

According to Lawson, Public Act 297 “places significant financial, emotional, and medical burdens on the plaintiffs that outweigh any slight increase in cost to the State,” suggesting the five couples will probably prove that the law discriminates against them. Until the full case can be decided, Lawson’s decision places the law on hold, ensuring that the couples will not lose their benefits if their union contracts expire in the interim.

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