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Challenge to Michigan school's DP benefits tossed out

Challenge to Michigan school's DP benefits tossed out

The Michigan state appeals court on Friday agreed with a lower court and dismissed a lawsuit challenging the Ann Arbor school district's policy of providing benefits to employees' gay partners. Without addressing the legality of offering domestic partner benefits, the court said a Christian law group representing 17 taxpayers failed to follow a technical rule before suing the district. The Thomas More Law Center had argued that a 1996 state law defining marriage as a union of a man and a woman, along with Proposal 2--a constitutional amendment passed by voters last November that recognizes only a union between a man and a woman as a marriage "or similar union for any purpose"--prevented the district and other publicly funded entities from providing health insurance and retirement benefits to gay couples in future contracts. But a three-judge panel, in an unanimous opinion released Friday, ruled that the taxpayers didn't do enough to first demand that the district halt its domestic partner policy. They had sent letters to school board members asking them to stop the "illegal use of public funds." "Plaintiffs' letters are merely a request that the alleged misappropriation stop; they are not a demand for legal action," the court wrote. In oral arguments last week, the school district and a union representing school employees had urged the court to dismiss the case because the plaintiffs failed to meet requirements for filing suit. In a separate domestic partner benefits case, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and several gay couples who work for governments, public universities, and municipalities are seeking a judgment that Proposal 2 does not bar government employers from providing benefits to same-sex partners and their children. The issue heated up last month when Republican attorney general Mike Cox interpreted the amendment's broad language to mean the city of Kalamazoo, by its designating gay partners to receive the same health and retirement benefits as married spouses, gives domestic partnerships a marriagelike status. He wrote in an opinion that Proposal 2 prohibits the acknowledgment of same-sex and unmarried opposite-sex relationships. Cox said his opinion is binding, but the issue ultimately will be decided by the courts. (AP)

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