A new federal lawsuit seeks to strike down Michigan's constitutional amendment that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, saying it violates the U.S. Constitution. Bangor attorney Jessie Olson is named as a coplaintiff with her lesbian partner, Tabitha A. Flatau, in the suit she filed Wednesday in U.S. district court in Kalamazoo. She said the amendment is stripping away job benefits such as health insurance from gay and unmarried heterosexual domestic partners and their children.
Michigan voters approved the amendment, which adds Section 25 to Article 1 of the state's constitution, with November's passage of Proposal 2. "Section 25 applies at all levels of state, county, and municipal government, imposing a special disability on people in same-sex relationships whether they seek protection for their relationships from government employers, administrative agencies, cities, towns, or the state legislature," the lawsuit says. The amendment violates the equal-protection clause of the Constitution's 14th Amendment, according to the suit.
Michigan attorney general Mike Cox's office said Thursday it hadn't seen Olson's lawsuit. Gary Glenn, president of the Midland-based American Family Association of Michigan and an outspoken supporter of Proposal 2, said the filing was "certainly no surprise." "It does point to the absolute necessity of a marriage protection amendment to the U.S. Constitution in order to protect the will of the people of Michigan and 17 other states in the country," Glenn said.
Going into the November election, opponents of Proposal 2 said they worried about its possible effect on domestic-partner benefits for unmarried couples. On March 16, Cox said the amendment bars local and state governments, in future labor contracts, from designating gay partners of employees to receive health and retirement benefits also given to spouses. He wrote in an opinion that Kalamazoo's policy of offering benefits to same-sex partners violates the amendment.
Five days later, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan challenged Cox's opinion in a still-pending lawsuit filed in Ingham County circuit court. Those bringing that suit include 21 same-sex couples--including Kalamazoo city employees, workers at state universities, and employees at various state agencies and departments--and a Washington, D.C.-based AFL-CIO group, National Pride at Work, that backs gay rights. (AP)