Michigan’s Republican Rep. Peter Lund, who owns a direct mail marketing firm, is married (to a woman) and has two daughters. Because of his heterosexual privilege, Lund enjoys the ability to share his health benefits with the rest of his family. But the state’s gay employees don’t have that option, something the Michigan Civil Service Commission, in a 3-1 vote, moved to change last month. Gov. Rick Snyder didn’t like the idea, because he thought it would cost too much money the state doesn’t have. But Lund doesn’t like the idea because he thinks it violates the 2004 ballot measure that forced the state to recognize only opposite-sex unions. So he’s working to have the folks who serve on the Civil Service Commission fired. Lund cites a 2008 Michigan Supreme Court ruling that upheld the ballot measure. Now all eyes fall to Attorney General Bill Schuette, who has until Jan. 26 to issue an opinion on whether the Commission’s vote violates the Michigan constitution.
The court ruling made it unlawful to extend benefits to same-sex spouses, citing a successful 2004 ballot initiative in Michigan that defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman. The commission, following the lead of several universities and a few municipalities, scrapped contract wording mentioning same-sex couples negotiated prior to the ballot initiative and used broader wording to extend benefits to unrelated housemates, regardless of gender, plus the housemate’s dependents. Covered housemates must have lived with the state employee for at least one year and are limited to one per household.
The benefits extension — which so far applies to about 70 percent of the state workforce and is estimated to cost up to $5.7 million a year — was approved as the state grapples with an approximately $1.8 billion deficit. Through a spokeswoman, Gov. Rick Snyder expressed frustration and disappointment with the 3-1 decision. Commission Chairman Thomas “Mac” Wardrop, who cast the lone “no” vote, said although he opposed the action he believes the issue is settled and the commission will move on to other matters. He said he expects the financial impact will be lower than the $5.7 million estimate. Reversing the decision would require a two-thirds vote of both chambers of the Legislature.
Isn’t it so lovely to see Rep. Lund care so much about the constitution he’s willing to ignore that whole “equal protection” thing in the name of denying you people health care? Send your love letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. “It is an absolute abomination to hear a state agency has the gall to make such a costly and polarizing political move while people and their government are pinching pennies just to make ends meet,” said Lund last month. “There is no room for policies that encourage irresponsible spending in our budget for anything right now, let alone this clearly political move that shifts people’s hard earned dollars into the pockets of same-sex partners.”