By: D’Anne Witkowski*
There’s one thing you can say about the state of Michigan: it’s too friendly to gays.
I mean, yes, it’s still legal in Michigan to be fired for being gay. And second-parent adoptions aren’t available, meaning that kids with gay parents are only allowed one legally recognized parent despite the fact that they have two, never mind the complete lack of protections for the non-biological mom or dad. Oh, and then there was that 2004 anti-gay marriage amendment added to the state’s constitution.
But hey, I’m just being picky. It’s not like Michigan’s gays are being rounded up and sent to prisons or anything. So who can really complain?
Well, public employees, for one. I mean, it’s no secret that Republicans consider public employees a bunch of freeloaders looking for handouts from taxpayers. I mean, to think that teachers or police officers, for example, want things like livable wages and health insurance. Greedy, greedy, greedy.
Mind you, if public employees are awful then gay public employees are, obviously, the worst.
So it should come as no surprise that Michigan Republicans are, yet again, attacking domestic partner benefits for gay and lesbian state employees.
A little background is necessary here. The 2004 marriage amendment included the language “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.”
Supporters of the amendment swore up and down that they were not after domestic partner benefits; they just wanted to make clear that only a penis and a vagina were allowed to say, “I do” to each other.
But that whole “or similar union for any purpose” thing led many people to fear otherwise. And wouldn’t you know it, those people were right.
Then Attorney General Mike Cox, a Republican, jumped on the chance to declare DP benefits unconstitutional and the Michigan Supreme Court ruled as such in 2008. Public institutions like colleges and universities scrambled to continue offering DP benefits while not blatantly disregarding the ruling by calling them something else and revising the eligibility requirements.
But this just will not do for Michigan Republicans who are apparently still losing sleep over the fact that some gay and lesbian public employees are receiving benefits of any kind for their “roommates,” as state Rep. Dave Agema, R-Grandville, put it.
According to the Chicago Tribune, “Republicans say some public employers have gotten around the implications of (the 2004) constitutional amendment by extending the health care benefits to domestic partners of the opposite sex, along with same-sex partners.”
Agema is the sponsor of bills that seek to eliminate these benefits once and for all. The bills passed in the Republican-controlled state House and are headed to the Republican-controlled Senate.
“It is not the responsibility of taxpayers to support the roommates and unmarried partners of public employees,” said Agema. “Providing benefits in this way is not the role of the state, especially when tax dollars are in short supply and there are critical programs being affected by the decrease in revenue.”
It apparently is the role of the state, however, to further exacerbate the inequality its gay and lesbian citizens are subject to under the law and to publicly dismiss their families as frauds.
“Michigan voters, our Supreme Court, and the attorney general all agree with these bills, and passing legislation is just another way to underline their point to those who don’t seem to get it,” Agema continued. “This is a fiscal issue. We are doing all we can to respect the will of the people and not place an unnecessary economic burden on our residents while so many are struggling to make ends meet.”
Oh, “this is a fiscal issue,” is it? Bullshit. Using Michigan’s economic crisis as an excuse for going after benefits is a smokescreen. The truth is, gay and lesbian families don’t count in Michigan. Not to the people in power, anyway.
*D’Anne Witkowski has been gay for pay since 2003. She’s a freelance writer and poet (believe it!). When she’s not taking on the creeps of the world she reviews rock ‘n’ roll shows in Detroit with her twin sister.