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Michigan Same-Sex Couples Consider Moving for Health Coverage

Doak Bloss and Gerardo Ascheri     photo credit: ACLU Michigan
Doak Bloss and Gerardo Ascheri photo credit: ACLU Michigan
August 13, 2012

LANSING, Mich. Same-sex couples in Michigan who are suing the state over denial of health care coverage may be packing up and leaving if the judge rules against them.

The law in question prohibits certain public employers from offering health insurance for non-married couples. Some of the plaintiffs say the high cost of private insurance will leave them with no choice but to move out of Michigan.

Doak Bloss works for the Ingham County Health Department, and his partner of 18 years has been covered by his employee health plan. Without it, he says, private coverage would cost them $6,000 a year, and he wonders if staying in Michigan is really worth it.

"Well, I'm actually considering leaving. I've lived her all my life. But this really is directly saying, 'You're not wanted here.' That's what it sounds like."

Other plaintiffs echoed that sentiment. Last week, an attorney for the state argued in court that Michigan has the legal right to save money by limiting health care coverage and that the law protects marriage. The plaintiffs argued that the law discriminates against them because heterosexuals can marry to get coverage but they cannot, as Michigan law forbids same-sex marriage.

Bloss says he feels betrayed by the Michigan Marriage Protection Amendment that was passed several years ago.

"It was passed with a strong campaign saying that it would not affect insurance benefits. In fact, even members of my own family, I think, voted for it because all they thought they were voting for was the 'sanctity of marriage being just between a man and a woman.'"

Amanda Goad, an ACLU staff attorney with the LGBT and Aids Project, says they stressed to the judge the need for a quick ruling.

"One of our clients has already lost her health insurance and others will be losing it at different points later this year and beyond, when their partners' contracts are up for renewal."

The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of public employees such as teachers and county workers. It hopes for a ruling within the next few weeks.

More information is at www.aclumich.org.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - MI