Pro-gay policy challenged in Michigan

BY admin

September 24 2003 12:00 AM ET

A lawsuit filed Monday by a conservative group seeks to block the Ann Arbor, Mich., Public School District from providing insurance benefits to same-sex couples, an option offered in its employee contracts. The Thomas More Law Center, which wants to stop tax money from supporting those benefits, claims that the district's policy is an attempt to institutionalize same-sex marriage. But backers of such policies say they ensure equal compensation among employees.

The civil suit, filed in Washtenaw County circuit court, says the district's contracts violate a 1996 Michigan law that defines marriage as "inherently a unique relationship between a man and a woman" and makes same-sex marriages invalid in the state.

"The school district's transparent effort to circumvent Michigan's law defining marriage is unlawful and all the more unfortunate because these funds should be used to serve the legitimate needs of the district's students," Patrick T. Gillen, associate counsel with the law center, said in a statement.

District spokeswoman Liz Margolis said she couldn't comment on specifics of the lawsuit, since the district hadn't reviewed it. She said she doesn't know how many of the district's approximately 3,000 employees use the benefits.

Jeffrey Montgomery, executive director of gay rights group Triangle Foundation, said the district extends benefits to same-sex couples not to legitimize same-sex marriage but because those couples are prohibited from being married. "What they're institutionalizing is fairness and equality and equal
compensation for equal work," Montgomery said. "I think that fair pay for work is a pretty bedrock value for the people of Michigan and the people of this country."

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