Although he claims he never thinks about them, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has been a thorn in the side of the LGBT community. When Public Act 297, was passed by the Republican majority Michigan House and Senate, the governor signed it, registered it with the Michigan Secretary of State, and put it into effect all in the same day. Public Act 297, entitled by its authors, the “Public Employee Domestic Partner Benefit Restriction Act” told same-sex spouses of all public employees — I don’t care what my predecessor Governor Granholm promised you, or what your union contract says, your health insurance is going away.
Five same-sex partners sued the governor. They complained Gov. Snyder had violated their rights of equal protection, and of due process. Friday, Judge David Lawson, who is hearing the case, enjoined Public Act 297 from being enacted, citing the Supreme Court’s DOMA decision.
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.”
Judge Lawson’s order goes on to predict that after the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling, the five same-sex couples who filed the suit are likely to prevail at trial. The Court therefor enjoined the law from being enacted before the case can be litigated. This order by the judge ensures no spouse in a same-sex marriage to a public employee will lose their health insurance before the full case is litigated.
Judge Lawson is believed to have been the first jurist to cite as precedent, the Supreme Court “DOMA” case — Windsor v. U.S. — in issuing a decision from the bench. He is definitely not the last. Yesterday, another Michigan Judge, Bernard Freidman, allowed the case of Jayne and April DeBoer-Rowse v. Governor Snyder and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schutte, to proceed. The couple (right, with their three children) are challenging the 2004 amendment to the Michigan Constitution that bars gay and lesbian couples from marrying, and keeps same-sex couples from both adopting the children in their families.
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