Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan is defending a state law that forbids the state and all local governments (and public universities) from providing benefits to same-sex partners in a lawsuit and he’s responding to the equal protection arguments by saying that’s okay because it saves money.
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…
“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.
“The only policy issue that the defendant has identified is the desire to save money. But a desire to save money cannot possibly be sufficiently important to require the court to abstain from deciding the constitutional issues raised by the plaintiffs. If it were, states could effectively insulate themselves from constitutional review by the federal courts of virtually any law by citing budgetary concerns,” Lawson wrote.
To me, this is very much like the 1996 case Romer v Evans, where the state forbid all local governments from protecting LGBT people from discrimination of any kind. The public universities and many local governments in the state want to offer such benefits but the state says they can’t. There’s no way the state wins this case at the district court level. It sounds like they aren’t even trying anymore, knowing that they’ll lose. They’re just waiting for the appeals court now.