Michigan Bans Domestic Partner Benefits
Last week, Governor Rick Synder (R) signed into law legislation that bans public employees (with the exception of state government and university employees) from receiving benefits for their domestic partners. This move by the Republican-dominated state legislature is only the latest in a series of anti-LGBT moves. Earlier this year, the state Senate attempted to pass a so-called “anti-bullying” bill that left exceptions for bullying and harassment when “justified” by “religious or moral” beliefs.
Although Gov. Snyder claimed that the ban on domestic partner benefits is to save the state money, the real motivation for the law is quite clear: the same anti-LGBT animus that has permeated much of the state’s legislation on the issue of equality.
Already, Michiganis one of the least LGBT-friendly states in the nation. Same-sex sexual intercourse was illegal until 2003, when the Supreme Court declared all such laws unconstitutional. In fact, the Michigan law is still on the books – it’s just unenforceable. In 2004, a referendum approved a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality in the state. To this day, there are no anti-discrimination protections for sexual orientation or gender identity other than for public employees. In addition, there are no hate crimes protections for LGBT people — despite increasing attacks on LGBT people. And Michigan is one of only three states that explicitly prohibit adoption by same-sex couples.
The latest in this parade of anti-LGBT hate will deprive same-sex couples of the few benefits they were begrudged in spite of the ban on marriage, and it will likely drive many even deeper into poverty. As Reform Jews, we were already outraged at the unjust laws in Michigan – from the marriage discrimination to the lack of hate crimes protections. But we should be even more outraged at the new ways the state is now attempting to discriminate against LGBT individuals. As people of faith, who believe that there is a Divine spark within each person – that all people must be dealt with fairly and treated with dignity – we should show our righteous indignation at such bald-faced efforts to discriminate and stigmatize.
LGBT people are disproportionately poor, discriminated against in employment, and homeless. On average, these are people who most need the benefits that come with domestic partnerships. It is written, “Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows” (Isaiah 1:17). Let us do that by fighting state-sponsored bigotry such as Michigan’s new law.
Image courtesy of Bloomberg News.