Last Wednesday, the Michigan Supreme Court agreed with a lower appellate court that a 2004 amendment to the Michigan Constitution barred governments and state colleges from providing benefits to same sex partners of its employees. National Pride at Work Inc. v. Governor of Michigan (Mich. 5/7/08) [pdf]. My first thought was — another case of unintended consequences, which quite often seems to be a by-product of legislation, particularly legislation passed in haste.
However, a little more digging indicates that may well not be the case. Although voters were apparently told that the amendment was not about rights or benefits that obviously turned out not to be true. And a reading of the amendment itself:
To secure and preserve the benefits of marriage for our society and for future generations of children, the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose.
makes it pretty clear that the Supreme Court probably had little choice but to rule the way it did.
As an editorial from the Grand Rapids Press points out, the six words set out in bold obviously were put there for a purpose. Same-sex benefits: right ruling, wrong message. And now that purpose has shown itself.
The ruling should not impact private sector employers in the state who remain free to do as they wish with respect to this issue.
A hat tip to soon to be Marquette professor Paul Secunda at Workplace Prof Blog for his post, Same Sex Benefits Defeated in Michigan.