By Tara Cavanaugh
Attorney General Bill Schuette announced on May 6 that he is suing the Michigan Civil Service Commission. The MCSC decided in January to offer benefits to unrelated adults living with state employees, and Schuette is challenging the constitutionality of that decision.
“This unconstitutional use of authority is costing the taxpayers millions at a time when they can least afford it,” Schuette said.
Schuette claims the benefits exceed the Consitutional authority granted to the MCSC and they violate the state’s equal protection clause.
The MCSC, an independent office that administers human resources for state employees, negotiated with state employee unions to offer domestic partner benefits under Gov. Jennifer Granholm. But in 2004, Michigan voters added an amendment to the state constitution that defined marriage as only between a man and a woman. That amendment, known as Proposition 2, also demanded that any benefits of marriage – such as health benefits – only occur between a man and a woman. In response, state universities that had offered “same-sex partner” benefits changed their language to offer “other eligible adult” benefits. This allows unrelated roommates and their dependents to receive benefits even under Prop 2. The MCSC decision is similar in purpose.
The AG isn’t the only one trying to remove the benefits. State Republicans tried to overturn the MCSC decision in February and March. They needed a two-thirds majority vote in both the state House and Senate. Republicans managed the majority in the Senate, but not the House. The benefits are set to take effect in October.
House Republicans are also attacking the benefits again, this time financially. They wrote langauge in their version of the state budget that would penalize universities who offer “other eligible adult” benefits with a five percent cut in funding.
Although the attorney general said he’s challenging the constitutionality of the MCSC decision, his complaints – and complaints of fellow Republican lawmakers, including Gov. Rick Snyder – mostly decry the cost.
Schuette claims the benefits will cost up to $8 million. Democratic Senator Rebekah Warren from Ann Arbor told BTL in March that there was no way to know exactly how much the benefits would cost, but did not think it would be as high as Republican projections.
The MCSC needs to respond to the suit by May 27.