Update: Michigan's position on benefits for same-sex partners



by Cynthia Price
Legal News

Michigan State Attorney General’s briefs on the DeBoer v. Snyder case could not be received in time for the story in the Sept. 11 issue of the Grand Rapids Legal News.

A summary of the state’s position is as follows:

State Attorney General Bill Schuette along with Kristin M. Heyse and Tonya C. Jeter, also of the Attorney General’s office,  based their argument on Baker v. Nelson (409 U.S. 810). In that 1972 case the United States Supreme Court ruled that “neither the Due Process Clause nor the Equal Protection Clause bars the states from limiting marriage to one man and one woman,” according to the State’s brief. They also argue that later courts have affirmed this precedent, quoting the First Circuit Court of Appeals as saying that Baker “limit[s] the arguments to ones that do not presume or rest on a constitutional right to same-sex marriage,” and that even in the recent Windsor case, the Supreme Court “did not repudiate the Baker decision, leaving that precedent legally binding.”

The State’s most recent brief denies the Plaintiffs’ allegation that the Michigan Marriage Amendment resulted from animus against same-sex couples, and goes on to say that proof of the state’s legitimate interests, which meet the rational-basis argument, precludes that argument. The brief gives three state interests which are served: “1) providing the optimal childrearing environment, which includes role model of both sexes,  2) promoting and fostering naturally procreative relationships into stable unions,” and 3) approaching social change cautiously to avoid “serious unintended consequences.”

Whether or not the court finds Baker to govern, the state brief denies that the Michigan Marriage Amendment violates either the Equal Protection or the Due Process clauses.

Finally, the State argues that “This Court is not the proper forum for the change that Plaintiffs seek.” If indeed public opinion has changed, the law should be changed through “the democratic process.”