A Michigan law prohibiting public employers from extending employee benefits to anyone living with a government worker who isnt a spouse or legal dependent has been temporarily suspended by a federal judge.
U.S. District Judge David Lawson in Detroit on Friday rejected arguments by Gov. Richard Snyders administration that the law was a cost-saving measure and didnt target same-sex couples. Lawson said five such couples who sued last year would likely prevail on claims the measure violated their constitutional right to equal protection under the law.
The plaintiffs have shown that the defendants justifications for the discrimination wrought by Public Act 297 are so insubstantial that animus against same-sex couples remains as the only genuine justification, Lawson said.
Lawson cited in his ruling Wednesdays decision by the U.S. Supreme Court striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that barred the federal government from providing job benefits to non-employee spouses in same-sex marriages.
Gay couples are prohibited from marrying in Michigan by a 2004 amendment to its constitution that defined marriage as between one man and one woman. The legislation subject to todays ruling doesnt directly refer to same-sex couples, according to the judges 51-page decision.
Lawsons ruling temporarily bars the state from preventing local governments from extending public employee benefits to domestic partners.
Joy Yearout, a spokeswoman for Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, didnt immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment on todays ruling.
Were breathing a sigh of relief right now, Peter Ways, one of the plaintiffs, said in a statement issued by the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit.
This law was clearly meant to target families like ours and to make us feel as though we didnt count, Ways said.