Five gay and lesbian couples appear before a federal judge in Detroit today. They say they've lost, or soon will lose, their health coverage thanks to a state ban on domestic partner benefits for some public employees.
"We hope that the judge will very soon issue a ruling to tell the state that they cannot enforce this law and they cannot force these local employers to take away benefits for hard-working families here in Michigan," says John Knight, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which is suing on behalf of the couples, including an employee of the Ann Arbor School District, which cannot offer the benefits because of a recent state law.
Knight says the ban is discriminatory, since gay couples can't marry in Michigan.
"They have effectively singled out same-sex couples and said no, you can't get them. We're going to both tell you, ‘You can't marry,’ and we're going to go even further and say you can't get even these basic benefits," he says.
The attorney general's office declined to comment for this story because of pending litigation. Supporters of the law say it could help the state save several million dollars each year.
But Knight says the costs to cover domestic partners are minimal.
Public universities and most state employees are exempt from the law.