Governor Snyder, signing legislation to strip benefits from committed same-sex couples, outs himself as tool of the gay-hating right

Our Governor, Rick Snyder, signed into law this evening legislation that makes it illegal for the cohabitating partners of public employees to receive health insurance benefits. Unmarried heterosexual couples can easily remedy this situation by becoming married, at which time both husband and wife would qualify for full coverage. As the state does not recognize same-sex marriages, however, the same does not go for homosexual couples, regardless of how long they have been together, or how devoted they might be to one another.

Governor Snyder, it’s important to note, made sure that an exception was included, however, for the most vocal and powerful public employees – those who work for the State’s several universities. So, if you’re a gay professor, you’re alright, but if you’re a lesbian teacher in the public school system, with a partner who needs dialysis, you’re shit out of luck — your only alternative is to start looking for jobs in other, less backward, states. [As I understand it, it also made legal sense to exempt universities from this legislation, as their inclusion could have triggered court challenges, as, according to the charters of our Michigan universities, they are guaranteed some degree of autonomy.]

My hope would be that university employees across the state would see this for the divide and conquer bullshit that it is, and respond with overwhelming force, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens once people return to campus after the holiday break… Speaking of which, you can be sure that it wasn’t a coincidence that Snyder signed this into law now, just a few days before Christmas, when everyone’s thoughts are elsewhere.

I’m not very smart when it comes to this kind of stuff, but I can’t imagine that, as one of only two states in the country that is losing population, this could be good policy. [Michigan is currently investing significant amounts of money in an ad campaign designed to lure people back to the state. Any positive movement we may have seen as a result, I suspect, immediately evaporated with the Governor’s signature this evening. Snyder may not have heard the news yet, but very few educated young professionals these days give a damn that some men love men, and some women love women.] I know my sample size is pretty small, but I think it means something that, in the last few months, two productive, tax-paying Michiganders that I’ve interviewed for this site have indicated that they would leave if this legislation were to pass, not necessarily because it would mean that they would be paying more for their insurance, but because they don’t want to live in a state that sees them as being undeserving of the basic rights afforded to others. And I can’t blame them. I’m not the least bit gay, and this news has me thinking about what kind of state I’m raising my children in. And I can promise you that I’m not the only one.

Most disappointing of all, I suspect this isn’t something that Snyder personally believes. My guess is that he was forced into it by our Republican legislators in Lansing, who seem hellbent on turning our state into the last refuge for bigots, religious extremists and homophobes. I guess our nerd wasn’t so tough after all…

For further reading on today’s signing of HB 4770:

ACLU Michigan
Between the Lines
Detroit Free Press
Huffington Post

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  1. Heidi
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 12:16 am | Permalink

    Agreed, I worry about my two sons everyday..and am constantly thinking of a way to get out of Michigan, but really is it better anywhere else?

  2. murph
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 12:36 am | Permalink

    I think your last paragraph sums it up — this is something the governor tried to avoid but was pushed into by the republican majority in the state legislature. It’s certainly not something he wanted to come to pass, but it’s sad that he let himself get bullied into it.

    I know I come off as an apologist, but the math of the legislature means the governor can’t piss off the majority if he wants to get the things done that he wants to get done. This isn’t a case of the governor being against same-sex relationships so much as it’s a case of defending

  3. murph
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 12:40 am | Permalink

    …defending equal rights not being the governor’s highest priority: it’s deplorable, but we have to assign blame in the right place if we want to do anything about it.

    (And, fortunately, assigning blame where it belongs, in the legislature, is much easier to fix than blaming the governor: the legislature is up for reelection this next year, while Snyder isn’t up until 2014.)

  4. EOS
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 12:46 am | Permalink

    60% of the people in the State voted for this to happen years ago in a statewide referendum. It’s about time!

  5. Glen S.
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 4:59 am | Permalink

    As usual, I’m disappointed, but not surprised.

    And, I agree with Mark’s point that exempting (at least some) public universities has as much to do with a “divide and conquer” strategy as any strategic policy goal.

    Beyond the actual individuals who will be negatively impacted by losing health care, income, job security, etc., I agree it is critical to consider the larger message this action projects to the nation, and world, regarding how we see ourselves now, and what we aspire to be in the future — as we continue to struggle to “reinvent” Michigan.

    As time goes by, it seems clear that the cities, regions, states, etc., that are most successful are those that are embracing tolerance and diversity; welcoming newcomers who have education, skills and talent; and investing in public education and infrastructure that provides a foundation for a decent quality of life, and opportunities for creative growth and economic development.

    Instead, Michigan seems increasingly to be moving rapidly in the opposite direction.

    Michigan’s cities are struggling — and some are clearly failing. Our largest city (Detroit) now suffers from a lack of basic services, including public transportation, that would be considered “standard” in many developing countries. Our public (K-12) education system is being slowly dismantled, and our state is actively “disinvesting” in higher education. Much of our key infrastructure — roads, bridges, water systems, etc. — is crumbling. Rates of unemployment, poverty and homelessness are higher than in most other states. And, we top the charts in terms of health-care costs related to smoking, obesity, diabetes, etc.

    And yet, Governor Snyder and the Michigan Legislature have somehow determined that among their very top priorities was to vote to to strip health-care benefits from a relatively tiny handful of Michigan families — in order to satisfy a fringe constituency that is seemingly more interested in enforcing a narrow “moral” agenda than in actually trying to do anything to fix Michigan cities, rebuild critical infrastructure, reinvest in education, etc.

    Meanwhile … a look at the trend-lines of nearly any key indicator (income, education, health, etc.) shows that our slow, sad “race to the bottom,” continues to accelerate — with Michigan soon to look more and more like Mississippi or Alabama. (Albeit, with more snow.)

    Again, the vote to ban partner benefits will not — in and of itself — have a huge impact on our state, overall. At the same time, it also should not be underestimated as yet an0ther important “signal” about the direction in which Michigan is headed. (Hint: neither forward, nor upward.)

  6. Jordan Miller
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    Oh for Pete’s sake. 60% of the state voted for an ambiguously worded provision, one that many people said they would not have voted for if they understood correctly.
    Statistically, gays and lesbians tend to have higher per capita and household incomes, and they are being driven from our state.
    Personally, I don’t care if it’s the lehislature’s fault or not. You’re the governor. You sign it, you’re just as culpable. So you don’t get some of your initiatives passed. Civil rights are a trump card as far as I’m concerned.

  7. Jim
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    As Murph writes, we should focus on winning the House in 2012. Republican Mark Ouimet in western Washetenaw has a reputation of being a moderate, but he voted for both HB 4770 and HB 4771. He does not represent the values of our community. I hope that the Democrats will find a strong candidate to challenge him.

  8. Posted December 23, 2011 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    Why didn’t they just go the whole way? Non-christians, black people and gays could be denied health benefits. Hell, why hire them at all? Think of all the money the state could save!

  9. Edward
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Be patient, Pete.

  10. Eel
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    I wonder if their opinion on abortion would change if there was a test telling you if your fetus was likely to be gay.

    Our legislature disgusts me.

  11. Mr. X
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Good point about the legislature being up for reelection, Murph. We need to remember this day, and the day that they voted to greatly expand for-profit charter schools, when we head back into the voting booth.

    Would anyone happen to know where we could find a list of people who voted for an against this bill? I imagine it’s on a state site somewhere, but I can’t find it.

  12. Jim
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 9:42 am | Permalink
    It’s from the right-wing Mackinac Center, but it seems a useful source of factual voting information.

  13. TeacherPatti
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    I love you all dearly (yes, even you EOS!) but people aren’t going to vote the legislature out of office. Sorry to play the role of the turd in the punchbowl today but I just don’t see that happening. Other than the big cities of Detroit, Flint, Lansing, etc., we are very much a “red”, socially conservative state. Most elections are decided in the prelims (that’s not the right word, sorry…blanking on the right word) and as we know, only about 5% or so show up and it’s often the most die hard right/left wingers who do so. Primaries! that’s the right word! Given that, I don’t see change happening.

    The only thing that could POSSIBLY happen is that slightly less nasty candidates run in the “red” parts of the state and they get voted in, but that possibility seems remote.

  14. EOS
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    “And yet, Governor Snyder and the Michigan Legislature have somehow determined that among their very top priorities was to vote to to strip health-care benefits from a relatively tiny handful of Michigan families …”

    This is untrue. For the first time in the history of our state, unmarried adults outnumber married persons. This law effects a miniscule number of homosexual couples and a large number of heterosexual couples. The principal cause of childhood poverty is the absence of a married father in the home. Marriage drops the incidence of childhood poverty by 82%. More than 40% of children born today are born to unmarried mothers. It is in the best interests of everyone to encourage marriage between one man and one woman, so that the next generation has the financial and emotional stability to prosper.

    Within ten years of the adoption of homosexual marriage in the Netherlands, 75% of the children in that country were born out of wedlock. With several states now allowing homosexual marriage, we are beginning to experience the same effect here. Parents who are not married are significantly more likely to break up, resulting in financial hardship for their children. Redefining marriage as a means to boost the self esteem of a very small minority has had a devastating effect on the most basic and essential unit of society – the family. Allowing two persons of the same sex to get married, who have no possibility of shared progeny, has weakened the cultural influence that encourages parents to marry. It has reduced the marriage pact to a worthless piece of paper for many. Denying benefits to unmarried partners will encourage more marriages and stronger families, two very good reasons for our state to be involved.

  15. Christine M
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    I don’t think the answer is to leave Michigan. I think political action or just plain VOTING will help. Karma is a bitch. I get sad when I think of people moving away as a solution. I’ve had family members try to talk me out of living here, it annoys me. I love Michigan Goddamit!

  16. Posted December 23, 2011 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Maybe it’s the inner Libertarian in me, but I don’t think the state has any business “encouraging” anyone to get married nor interfering with whatever type of familial arrangement people wish to have.

  17. Watching Laughing.
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Why would anybody be surprised?


  18. EOS
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 11:23 am | Permalink


    The state already “encourages” single parenting by redistributing our tax dollars to unwed teen mothers. Since state involvement is a necessity, we do have a vested interest in promoting marriage between parents.

  19. Posted December 23, 2011 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    Well, I would argue that the state needlessly “encourages” marriage by offering massive tax breaks to married couples.

  20. Edward
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    The important thing here is that the Governor found a way to save face with his friends in the University of Michigan administration. If this had passed without the U-M exemption, he’d be unable to show his face anywhere other than Tea Party rallies.

  21. EOS
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    51% of married couples paid less tax jointly than if they had not been married, according to a 1996 Congressional Budget Office analysis. The average amount these couples saved: $1,300.

    42% of married taxpayers paid more by filing jointly than they would have if they’d remained single, the office said. The average penalty: $1,380.

    The people who got tax breaks by marrying were those with disparate incomes, where one spouse earned more than the other. The wider the gap between the paychecks of the husband and wife, the bigger the bonus. Seems the “tax break” applies mainly to those couples who have one spouse at home raising their children.

    The people who tended to face a marriage penalty were those with similar incomes. Typically, the more they made, the bigger the penalty they paid. Homosexuals, who both work and are not raising any children, would pay a marriage penalty, if allowed to marry.

  22. Posted December 23, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Marriage is a useless institution. More people drop out of marriages than drop out of school. I say we get the state out of people’s sexual and reproductive unions all together. If we can’t do that, then the laws need to apply to all equally.

    If it were up to you, however, interracial marriage would be illegal. I’m sure that you could easily find data supporting that position

    Wait, why am I feeding this troll?.

  23. EOS
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, why worry about children being raised in poverty when you can further your racist agenda.

  24. Jim
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    @TeacherPatti, the Dems have a real shot at retaking the House. In the GOP landslide of 2010, the MI House switched from 66D 44R to 47D 63R. The Dems have to take back 9 of the 19 seats they lost to regain the House. MI is not a socially conservative state–it’s diverse and on balance moderate. Today’s Tea Party GOP and their anti-gay, anti-democratic agenda are too extreme for Michigan.

  25. heidi
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    You state “The principal cause of childhood poverty is the absence of a married father in the home.”
    I beg to differ and show you an exception. After my divorce, I now make more money then when I was married and no, I’m not getting child support nor am I getting any monetary support from the state at all other than my own.
    I could say more, but I’m not feeding the troll anymore.

  26. TeacherPatti
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    @Jim, I am going to hold on to your optimism :) :)

  27. wobblie
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

  28. EOS
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    Had I stated that all families headed by a single parent suffered under poverty conditions, then your argument would be a valid one. But everybody knows that’s not the case.

    No apologies necessary – my marriage is as strong as ever.

  29. Glen S.
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    “No apologies necessary – my marriage is as strong as ever.”

    And ironically, despite the utter hatefulness of folks like EOS, so is mine.

    Happy Holidays!

  30. EOS
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    No, not hate. Just a difference in moral standards. Merry Christmas!

  31. dirtgrain
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    Difference of moral standards? That excuse could be used for the most evil acts done on this planet.

  32. Homebrew
    Posted December 25, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    2012 elections………blow out. Even more Republicans to take office. For all of you liberal whiners who want to move………….use DMS, a moving company with decent rates to move you out of state. Bye!

  33. Posted December 26, 2011 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    How do you like our new advertising strategy?

  34. K2
    Posted December 27, 2011 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    To play devil’s advocate for a moment, maybe this will cause some gay school teachers and DMV employees to finally wake up to reality and choose to be straight.

    (That was sarcasm.)

  35. Posted December 27, 2011 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Jim – “…the Dems have a real shot at retaking the House.”

    Dream on, Jim. With no race for governor to energize the Democrat vote, and absolutely demoralizing Democrat incumbents running for President and U.S. Senate, the chances of some sort of complete or even 50%+ reversal of 2010 are slim. Michigan’s fiscal house, left in disarray by Gov. Granholm and the Democrat-led House, has been brought back into order under GOP leadership. By next fall voters will have seen two consecutive years in which the GOP led state gov’t brings the state budget in early and in good fiscal order.

    I expect that the net results of the 2012 elections will be a continuation of the GOP rout, with its effects spread widely in Washington, D.C. as well.

  36. Meta
    Posted December 27, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    From Brian Dickerson at the Freep:

    This is not the column I’d planned to write for Christmas Day.

    Christmas, after all, is no time for polemics. Even those for whom the day carries no religious significance embrace it as an opportunity to kick back, go to a movie, spend time with friends and family — a time, as the carol counsels, to “let your heart be light.”

    So I had planned to fill today’s column with a list of recommended reading — Internet links to a dozen newspaper, magazine or online pieces I’ve read outside the Free Press in the past year — essays I admired for their wisdom or wit, and that I was confident would appeal to a wide range of readers, including those with whom I don’t always see eye-to-eye.

    Then, just three days before the holiday, a governor I like and respect signed into law a piece of legislation whose primary purpose is to remind thousands of gay Michiganders that they are still something less than full-fledged members of the human race.

    And I can’t let this insult pass without comment, even on Christmas Day. Especially not on Christmas Day.

    Not welcome here
    I refer to a bill that bars government employers in Michigan from providing health care benefits to the domestic partners of their employees — a bill Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law late last week.

    Sponsors insist the new law is not discriminatory because it applies to both same-sex and straight couples. Snyder, in a feeble effort to appease those people it consigns to second-class citizenship, says he has been assured it will not preclude domestic partner benefits for employees of public universities, which vehemently opposed the legislation.

    But those who championed the bill sought primarily to end the practice of providing benefits to same-sex couples that was adopted by some government agencies and most of the state’s public universities after passage of the one-man, one-woman marriage amendment in 2004.

    And however Snyder seeks to muffle it, the new law’s message to gay men and women is clear:

    We don’t like you.

    We don’t want you here.

    We’ve still got lots of ways to make you feel unwelcome, and we’re not afraid to use them.

    A telling use of power
    Many years ago, my now retired colleague Hugh McDiarmid Sr., whose coverage of state government distinguished this newspaper’s pages for a quarter century, gave me some good advice: Be slow, he cautioned, to make character judgments about politicians you haven’t spent time with.

    Remember that most people are trying to do the right thing as they see it, McDiarmid said. Get to know people and what makes them tick before you disparage their character.

    I don’t presume to know Rick Snyder, although I’ve spent more time talking to him than have most of his constituents and all but a handful of Michigan journalists. I think he’s a decent, reasonable man. If he harbors petty prejudices, he keeps them to himself. I cannot imagine him making a crack about “queers,” even in private.

    But the power to sign hateful legislation into law is also the power to render one’s personal decency irrelevant. And in endorsing this transparently homophobic prohibition — however reluctantly, and with whatever ulterior motive — Snyder has effectively allied himself with the most small-minded, mean-spirited element of his party.

    They won’t prevail — bigots never do, in the end — but they may, with Snyder’s help, succeed in scaring the talented young people Michigan needs away to other states.

    This, I’m certain, is neither the legacy Snyder wants to leave nor the result hundreds of thousands of independent voters sought when they cast ballots for him in 2010.

  37. Posted December 27, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    But Mr. Dickerson, the bigots are prevailing.

  38. Interrobang
    Posted December 29, 2011 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    The principal cause of poverty is not having enough money. Everything else is political dickering. Having a ring on your finger and a man in your house doesn’t somehow magically make everything all better, as though the Money Fairy somehow shows up when you say “I do.”

    The main reason female-headed households make less money than male-headed households is that society at large is still sexist enough to only pay women about 3/4 of what men earn for the same work, at the same educational level, and controlled for everything else. If this disparity were fixed, female-headed households (whether headed by never-married, divorced, or widowed women) would not be more likely to be in poverty.

    Also, given the structural issues that pretty much demand two incomes to run a household these days, you’ve got a hell of a lot of nerve blaming that on uppity women being “immoral.” (Why don’t you save some of that highfalutin’ moral outrage for the douchebags who made sure you couldn’t have a family and a decent living on a single working-class salary these last 30 years or so, huh? IOKIYAR?)

  39. Jim
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Designated Republican, I didn’t say that Democrats were likely to take back the House, but they do have a real shot.

    Recent special elections in OH and WI show that the Republican tide has already receded. Congress’s approval rating is 11%, and that low approval is shared by both parties (unlike in 2010, when voters blamed Democrats who controlled both chambers). Since all of the GOP Presidential candidates are remarkably weak, the eventual nominee is unlikely to motivate high Republican turnout. A recent MSU poll put Snyder’s approval rating at a pitiful 19.3%–the lowest of any governor–showing a lot of dissatisfaction with Lansing.

    The state Democratic party should be recruiting and supporting candidates in every competitive district.

  40. Mark Collins
    Posted January 1, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    Its 2012 now and I’m starting my national job search today and reminding myself why by reading comments about HB 4770. I don’t care to live in a state in which White Trash mean-spiritedness and/or apathy prevail over fairness for all. That makes t least three people. I’m sure if we took a majority vote to strip Homebrew of his health care benefits or earmark tax revenue to fund his needs that he would lose his. Who the heck cares about a white trash’s comfort? Not I. I’m surest we looked at the benefit to the state provided by we three in comparison to Homebrew a majority would vote against that dolt.
    Regardless, Michigan, you can have Rep Agema who went to a fifth tier university (Western) and Homebrew who probably went to none. Enjoy his crappy beer and worthless contributions to this dying state.

  41. Meta
    Posted February 18, 2014 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    Gov. Rick Snyder asks federal judge to uphold same-sex benefits ban for public employees

    A motion filed Friday by attorneys for Gov. Rick Snyder asks a federal judge to continue Michigan’s ban on domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples who work for state and local governments.

    The motion asks Judge David Lawson to rule in favor of the state in a lawsuit filed by five same-sex couples. The motion argues that the 2011 law banning the benefits “eliminates local government programs that are irrational and unfair” and promotes “financially sound” local agencies.

    In June 2013, Lawson issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the state from enforcing the law, Public Act 297, saying the plaintiffs in the case had a good chance of proving at trial that the law violates the equal protection guarantee of the U.S. Constitution.

    “The plaintiffs fortify their position with statements from the sponsors of the legislation
    suggesting that Public Act 297 targets same-sex partners and was motivated by animus,” Lawson wrote in his order granting the injunction, which did not require public employers to offer the benefits if they were not previously.

    Two of the couples in the case are Ann Arbor Public Schools employees. The district announced after that ruling it hoped to continue offering the benefits long-term.

    The summary judgment motion, filed by Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office on behalf of Snyder, reiterates the fiscal responsibility argument Lawson seemed to reject when granting the injunction.

    “Public Act 297 is a logical and cohesive part of the effort to reduce costs and to address the fiscal insecurity of local governments that has increased exponentially over the past five years,” the state’s attorneys wrote in the motion. “It is not singular and does not target same-sex couples.”

    Lawson’s order appeared to conclude the fiscal responsibility argument was a non-starter as a defense against the equal protection claim.

    Read more:

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