The Hydra-Headed DOMA Decision and Bankrupting the States

The Hydra-Headed DOMA Decision and Bankrupting the States July 10, 2013

Michigan state law allows health benefits for school employees and their spouses.

It does not allow health benefits for domestic partners.

US District Judge David Lawson struck down this law on June 28. He based his decision on the recent Supreme Court decision overturning the first half of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

State law determines what benefits public school employees will receive. These benefits are paid for out of the state coffers. One would think that this would be a state’s rights issue, determined by the state’s legal definition of what constitutes a spouse.

However, the recent Supreme Court decision has allowed the judge to overstep state definitions of marriage and require the State of Michigan to extend health care benefits to domestic partners.

According to CNA:

U.S. District Judge David Lawson’s June 28 ruling said it can “never be a legitimate purpose” to deny health benefits to the same-sex partners of public employees. He said the plaintiffs who lost benefits or had to pay for more expensive private health insurance have a “plausible claim” that the law violates the U.S. Constitution.

The 2011 law ended same-sex partner benefits for a few school districts, the counties of Ingham and Washtenaw and the cities of Ann Arbor, East Lansing and Kalamazoo, the Associated Press said.

Defenders of the law said it was passed in the spirit of a 2004 constitutional amendment that defined marriage as a union of a man and a woman. That amendment won 58 percent of the vote.

This, of course, raises other questions for Michigan, and for all states. The Supreme Court decision essentially overturned state definitions of marriage as between one man and one woman, at least for all practical purposes. The Michigan case is just one small example of how far-reaching this Supreme Court decision actually is.

It will require a change in how the states pay for things such as employee benefits and entitlements. This district court decision pushes the envelope past legal marriages and into the area of domestic partnerships. Since our laws are required to be equal in their applications, that means that it does not just apply to domestic partnerships between same-sex couples, but between virtually anyone.

I realize that is not what the judge specifically addressed in his ruling, but that is the impact of the ruling. It may take a few court cases to make the point, but if this ruling stands up under appeal, that will be its effect in the long term.

The question immediately arises: How are the states going to pay for this? The answer, I’m pretty sure, is that they can’t. Oklahoma is actually in better financial condition than many states, and we would be flummoxed trying to provide benefits for every live-in “domestic partnership.” Of course, the federal government might decide to step in with huge subsidies for these benefits, but that raises the ugly question of how they are going to pay for it.

The only financially responsible answer that provides equal protection under the law that I can see is to either change state laws to redefine marriage to include gay couples and then wait for the next big trendy change allowing polygamy, followed by benefits to cohabiting heterosexuals, OR, do away with benefits for everybody. That is the effect of the Supreme Court’s decision on DOMA on the states.

I have no doubt that in the long run — and I’m talking about years, maybe a decade, but not much longer — where we will end up is doing away with benefits for everyone. It will be a simple financial imperative.

Welcome to the brave new world of marriage is whatever we say it is today.

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21 responses to “The Hydra-Headed DOMA Decision and Bankrupting the States”

  1. First of all I do believe they went to far when they passed same sex marriage. The damage was done then. I guess the real fact and truth of this same sex marriage, the fallen angels didn’t desire men, but the daughters of men. Then we have people running around saying there is nothing wrong with it! The devil and his angels desire women, to where certain christian people desire man for man, and woman for woman. 2nd CORINTHIANS 4:4, In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the (image) of God, should shine unto them. Paul was knocked down for persecution of christians, Why! because God chose him. So, if a gay person is chosen, then the light of Jesus Christ will shine on that person and bring him out of darkness. Amen”

  2. I think it’s high time that the answer to that is “do away with benefits for anybody”.

    Back when there was loyalty in the employee/employer relationship, health benefits tied to employment made sense- it was a statement by the employer that they’d stick with you even if you became unable to fulfill your job.

    My generation knows no such loyalty, at all, in either direction.

    It’s high time that we got our medical benefits elsewhere.

  3. That ruling has to be appealed and overturned. The judge does not get it. People should be legally married to be covered by the employees’ plans. Cohabitating means nothing. The problem really is the state definitions and the inability of gays to marry in those states. Everyone should be allowed to marry one person at a time and only that person should be covered.

  4. I think the ultimate attempted solution to this is going to be, no benefits for *anyone* other than the actual employee and (possibly) legal dependents. You wife/husband/spouse/partner/sperm receptacle wants benefits? Then get your own job!

  5. Well, the big benefit expense is health insurance, right? Voila, Obamacare, and (convoluted) coverage for all regardless of job! Medicare for all would have been much simpler, but hey.

  6. Damien, I think you may not be entirely accurate in your understanding of the Affordable Health Care Act. It’s not universal health care, and it’s not universal health care insurance. Employer insurance plans would still be the best deal for people — by about the same margin we have now. Also, predictions for how to fund the Affordable Health Care were NOT predicated on a massive change in huge group insurance providers such as the states.

  7. This ruling applies to public education employees. So far as I know, that has always been state-funded. I can say as a certainty that it has for the past 33 years. 🙂

  8. Why not? The Supreme Court has ruled that it is unconstitutional to deprive gays of the right to marry. State laws that do so should be challenged in court as Prop 8 was. Then, only married partners should be covered.

  9. I think I do. I also think that, if companies that provide spousal benefits are going to be required to provide equal benefits for any kind of “spouse” or domestic partner, which could get extremely expensive, they will attempt to deal with it by refusing to provide *any* spousal benefits at all.

  10. The challenge to the Michigan law preceded the US Supreme Court ruling. In fact, the judge in the Michigan case deliberately delayed a decision to allow the Supreme Court to weigh in.

    Judge Friedman, in his June 28 ruling did not block the Michigan law. He decided that the case had enough merit to proceed to trial.

    At the hearing held today, Judge Friedman set the date for October 1st.

  11. As written it pretty much is a version of the Bismarck model of universal health care, though it’s easy for people to refuse to buy insurance, and people in states that refuse Medicaid expansion will be left out thanks to the Supreme Court ruling. And no, the margin’s much smaller. The big advantage of employer health insurance isn’t that the employer often pays for most of it, it’s that group plans must meet certain standards to get the tax benefit, particularly that all members get charged the same rate and can’t be denied coverage for conditions. Individual insurance doesn’t have those traits, and thus people typically can’t buy the insurance they need, or trust that they won’t get kicked off it when they get sick.

    By contrast, ACA extends to the individual market the same guarantees employees get: guaranteed issue (can’t be denied insurance) and community rating (everyone charged the same rate by location and age, and I think smoking status for ACA). The mandate to actually buy insurance is the third leg that makes it all work, financially, with subsidies to help people afford it.

    I live in Massachusetts under Romneycare, the US prototype for ACA. When I bought insurance, I went to the state exchange, entered my name, address, age, and credit card, chose a plan, and bam! I was covered at the start of the next month by a comprehensive, unlimited payout plan. No questions about pre-existing conditions, no chance of being denied coverage.

    With ACA, employer subsidized plans might be cheaper (but not really: if an employer wasn’t providing benefits, they could be giving the money as salary), but not particularly better. Certainly not as much better as currently, comparing a large employer like Microsoft or a government to the terrors of individual insurance outside of MA.

  12. I believe that any state law similar to Prop 8 can be successfully challenged and overturned. Of course, that state could have an attorney general who could bring the case to the Supreme Court, which might leave the issue in the hands of the state by overturning the decision or refer to the 14th Amendment and allow the decision.

  13. Without a legitimate marriage, what this judge has ruled will be subject to incredible abuse. The whole purpose of legitimizing SSM is to separate faux “families” from real families.

  14. Sorry to inform you, but the California Supreme Court already ruled on this issue, and said that the AG is NOT required by CA law to defend it in Federal Court. Ms. Harris ran on a platform on NOT defending Prop 8 and she won. The people have spoken.