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Lansing Community College cancels DP benefits for non-bargaining unit employees
by Todd A. Heywood
Originally printed 11/1/2007 (Issue 1544 - Between The Lines News)
LANSING - The Lansing Community College Board of Trustees has voted to end domestic partner benefits for non-bargaining unit employees. The decision is more symbolic than substance, however, since currently no one is impacted by the decision. Lansing Community College is the state's third largest community college, and has been offering DP benefits since 2002. It is the only Michigan community college offering such benefits.
According to the Lansing State Journal, James Humphries Board of Trustees liason said the decision was mandated by the 2004 antigay marriage amendment passed by voters. That amendment, and its impact on domestic partner benefits is the subject of ongoing litigation. The case, called Pride at Work v Jennifer Granholm, will be heard by the state supreme court on Nov. 6. An Ingham County Circuit Court held the amendment did not cover domestic partner benefits, but an appeals court decision held that it did. The State Supreme Court will decide which of the courts is correct.
"Unless something should change, if the law changes or there's another legal interpretation, then LCC will follow the law," Humphries told the State Journal. "We must adhere to the decision of the court."
The resolution by the Board does not impact benefits for employees covered by bargaining units. Those benefits are protected by a contract until 2010.
The Journal reports only 3 employees are currently using the domestic partner benefits, and quoted Terry Wellman, president of the Lansing Community College
Association of Educational Support Personnel,saying the potential loss of those benefits are not a serious concern "at least not at this point."
Jay Kaplan from the ACLU's LBGT Project said his group has forwarded information to LCC to assist them in developing a program similar to that offered by Michigan State University. MSU faced similar questions earlier this year, but addressed them by creating a program called Other Eligible Individuals. The OEI program does not rely on sexual relationships to provided benefits, a key concern expressed by the Appeals Court. The City of Kalamazoo and the University of Michigan have both created similar programs.
"We're taking a look at any options or alternatives that are out there that are within the law," Chris Laverty, chair of the LCC Board, told the Journal.
Trustee Thomas Rasmusson, who was on the board in 2002 when the DP policy was created, said he wanted to protect the policy.
"If there are non-traditional households on campus, we want them to have equal pay for equal work," he told the Journal.