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By Dawn Wolfe
ANN ARBOR – “Proposal 2 isn’t about hurting people or about taking away benefits. It’s about protecting ‘traditional’ marriage.” Variations on that statement were made throughout the 2004 election campaign by the people and organizations behind Proposal 2, the so-called “marriage amendment” to Michigan’s Constitution.
A law suit headed by the Thomas More Law Center against Ann Arbor schools, however, proves that the real aim of social conservatives is to hurt LGBT families.
And, if the law center prevails, roughly fifteen families with partners employed by the district, including families with children, will lose the benefits they depend on.
According to a Feb. 7 article in the Detroit Free Press, the suit was originally filed in 2003 and seeks to stop the Ann Arbor public school district from offering domestic partner benefits to employees with same-sex partners. The suit was thrown out of Washtenaw County Circuit Court on the grounds that the plaintiffs lacked the right to sue on the issue.
Undaunted by that decision, the law center and 17 unnamed taxpayers filed an appeal with the Michigan Court of Appeals. In December, the plaintiffs filed a document called a supplemental, asking that the Court of Appeals take Proposal 2 into consideration when rendering its decision.
According to Liz Margolis, director of communications for the Ann Arbor school district, the district plans to ask for a meeting with the court regarding its decision to accept the law center’s supplemental. The Court has asked for a one-page response, but, “You can’t respond to a constitutional amendment in one page,” said Margolis.
“We intend to defend this,” Margolis added. “This is an agreed-upon benefit that we provide to all of our employees. It is not uncommon here in Ann Arbor – the county, the city and the university all provide the same benefit.”
Margolis said that, regardless of whether or not the plaintiffs prevail, the suit has already hurt children in Ann Arbor.
“The bottom line for the district [is that] all it (the suit) does is take money away from our being able to provide education to our students,” Margolis said.
Triangle Foundation Director of Policy Sean Kosofsky echoed Margolis’ sentiment.
“Right-wing extremists are showing how anti-family they really are every time they attack health insurance for gay families,” he said.
“We believe Proposition 2 does not prohibit domestic partner benefits, and schools and cities and universities that offer them should continue doing so,” he added.