Court Blocks Benefits Ban

By: Brian Johnson Email
By: Brian Johnson Email

It's another small victory for the LGBT community after Wednesday's supreme court ruling, but it will impact more than just gay and lesbian partners.

"The majority of couples affected are actually straight couples who are choosing not to get married, but of course the motivation behind the ban was to harm LGBT families." said Emily Dievendorf, the Managing Director of Equality Michigan.

Friday U.S. District Court Judge David Lawson ruled a ban that withheld benefits to unmarried couples was unconstitutional and granted an injunction to block the law. It means those employees who work for cities, counties, school districts and community colleges where partner benefits are available can now qualify. It does not however require they provide the benefits if such a policy doesn't exist.

"I think that is a unique opportunity for our state to treat all people equally." said Barb Byrum, the Ingham County Clerk.

As clerk, Byrum performs about 20 weddings each week, she hopes this will be another step toward marriage equality in Michigan.

"This is important to make sure that all people are treated equally and all families are recognized equally," said Byrum. "I think this is a great step forward for our state."

"It tends to be a cost saving measure, any time you provide health benefits and those basic protections and the basic coverage for families, because it makes it so that people are less likely to get sick, they are less likely to miss work, they are more likely to care for each other," said Dievendorf.

The City of East Lansing is already working to ensure any employees who have an unmarried partner -- now gets their benefits. The city had allowed "other eligible individuals" to receive benefits, but was forced to stop giving them. It can now restore those benefits.

"At this point it seems like just about every week we see another step forward and I think that is a great indication that we are on our way to where we should be," said Dievendorf.

State democrats were quick to offer their endorsement of the decision, including Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer and Mark Schauer, the democrat running for governor.

News Ten reached out to Governor Snyder's office for a comment but didn't hear back.

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