By Dawn Wolfe
On March 23, Republican Attorney General Mike Cox issued an opinion stating that the anti-gay Proposal 2 could be used to deny domestic partnership benefits to employees of the city of Kalamazoo.
On March 24, the Ann Arbor News quoted Cox spokeswoman Allison Pierce as saying that the decision also applies to public school systems and state universities.
Cox’s decision is being met with skepticism and resistance by at least some of the state’s major universities.
While most of the universities contacted by BTL were still studying the decision as of press time, University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman issued a letter on March 22, prior to Cox’s statement, that reaffirmed UofM’s commitment to treating its gay and lesbian employees equally.
“We do not believe the state’s definition of marriage is relevant in any way to our decision about what benefits to offer our employees and their dependents, and we do not intend to make any changes to our benefits based on it,” Coleman said. “As a University, we believe deeply that all members of our community should be respected and valued, and that discrimination based upon any form of prejudice is wrong…We will vigorously defend our ability to offer these benefits; and, we will continue to pay attention to issues that may affect the environment we have worked so hard to create.”
UofM spokesperson Julie Peterson said on March 25 that the university will continue to defend its right to provide the benefits.
“We’re not [changing the benefits] because the AG’s ruling is not binding on the University of Michigan,” she said. “Only a court can interpret the constitution as it applies to the University.”
Central Michigan University spokesperson Mike Silverthorn said that his university will also be keeping its DP benefits.
“We do not currently plan any changes to our policies,” he said March 28. “We will continue to offer those benefits. We do not believe we are in violation of any laws that apply to us.”
UofM is putting its money where its mouth is – according to the Ann Arbor News report,it has joined Wayne State University and the city of Ann Arbor in fighting a lawsuit against the Ann Arbor school district’s domestic partnership policy. Both universities have filed Friend of the Court briefs in support of the school district’s right to treat the families of gay and lesbian employees equally. The suit, filed by the Thomas More Law Center, will begin April 5 in an Ingham County appeals court.