DOMA decision ripples through Michigan


U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman, Eastern District of Michigan. Photo via

Not even a week following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions involving the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8, Michigan already is seeing some ripple effects.

Public employers

Two days after the Supreme Court struck down DOMA, U.S. District Judge David S. Lawson announced an injunction that blocks Michigan from enforcing its 2011 Public Employee Domestic Partner Restriction Act, which bans public employers from offering benefits to same-sex couples.

The law is being challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union and Kirkland & Ellis on behalf of five gay and lesbian public employees, as well as their long-term domestic partners, who either lost their health insurance or would have lost their insurance as a result of the law.

“Judge Lawson recognized, as the Supreme Court did, that the Constitution forbids the government from passing laws with a motive to discriminate against gay people. This is the first federal court decision applying the Supreme Court's reasoning to protect same-sex couples from discrimination in other contexts,” according to ACLU an announcement.

“This law served no purpose to the state of Michigan other than to needlessly discriminate against hard-working families,” said Kary L. Moss, executive director of the ACLU of Michigan. “It’s hard to encourage talented people and their families to work for public employers in Michigan when they’re denied the ability to take care of each other.”

Lawsuit against Michigan

Additionally, Federal District Judge Bernard Friedman issued an order denying Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriages.

Friedman had previously decided to hold off on the DeBoer v. Snyder case until after the Supreme Court issued its rulings this month, stating, “Hopefully, the Supreme Court will give us some direction, and I think they will.”

Following the DOMA decision, Friedman wrote in his opinion, “Plaintiffs are entitled to their day in court, and they shall have it.”

Additionally he wrote, “Plaintiffs’ equal protection claim has sufficient merit to proceed. The United States Supreme Court’s recent decision in United States v. Windsor, No. 12-307 (U.S. Jun. 26, 2013), has provided the requisite precedential fodder for both parties to this litigation.”

The challenge against Michigan’s gay marriage ban will now proceed.

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