Friday, June 6, 2008
Point/Counterpoint On Michigan...

Don Sherfick at Bilerico has thrown down the gauntlet (at least to Micah Clark) with a post entitled Paging Micah Clark:  Your Silence on the Michigan Domestic Benefits Decision is Deafening.  I would quote Sherfick's post in its entirety, but Bilerico generally frowns on copyright infringement.I may have missed something in the blogs or in the media, but so far I haven't run across anything from the office of Micah Clark, head of the Indiana chapter of the American Family Association, heralding the fairly recent decision of the Michigan Supreme Court to wipe out same-sex domestic partnership benefits at state institutions because of its "Marriage Protection" constitutional amendment. Not a peep so far from Curt Smith at the Indiana Family Institute's website, and Eric Miller of Advance America also seems missing in action on this one.

Could it have something to do with the fact that the American Family Association in Michigan, as well as other organizational first cousins of similar groups here, have again been caught pretty red-handed in "bait and switch" tactics? They say one thing to get the legislature and public to go along with an amendment, and then once it's on the books they go into court with flip-flopping that makes Mitt Romney look like the Rock of Gibraltar.Gary Glenn, of the American Family Association of Michigan, responds.Don, you'd have those guys in Michigan dead to rights...

If only what you report were true.

But it's not.

campaign committee that opposed Michigan's Marriage Protection
Amendment actually praised the American Family Association of Michigan
for openly acknowledging -- before the 2004 election -- exactly how the
amendment would impact public employee benefits.

June 2004 news
release: "The Coalition for a Fair Michigan said today that they were
happy to find common ground with the Michigan affiliate of the American
Family Association, one of the lead proponents of the proposed
constitutional amendment that would ban legal recognition of any
relationships other than opposite-sex marriage. Last night, at a forum
on the amendment...both sides agreed that the amendment would go much
further than defining marriage by also eliminating any
government-sanctioned domestic partnership benefits. 'I’m glad we could
find common ground with the AFA, and I want to thank Gary Glenn for his
willingness to be upfront on this point,' said Wendy Howell, Campaign
Manager for CFM."


AFA-Michigan explained the amendment's impact in great detail in a
Sept. 28, 2004 news release, five weeks before the election at which
the amendment was overwhelmingly approved by voters.

Quoting from that AFA-Michigan news release:


said amendment opponents falsely claim it will prevent public employers
from offering employee benefits to some employees, a charge routinely
parroted by newspaper editorials and media commentators.

"Only problem is, it's false," Glenn said.

amendment doesn't apply at all to private sector employers, he said,
and under federal contract and labor law, voter approval of Proposal 2
will have no effect whatsoever on public employee benefits included in
existing collective bargaining agreements. Plus, the amendment will not
stop any employer in the future from offering benefits to anyone the
employer chooses, he said, so long as it's not on the basis of formally
recognizing homosexual relationships as equal or similar to marriage.

noted three alternative benefits policies under which all individuals
currently receiving public employee benefits could continue to do so
after enactment of Proposal 2, each of which he said disproves
amendment opponents' charges as false:

* A government employer
could adopt an "anything goes" policy, allowing employees to add anyone
they wish to their health care coverage -- a sick relative, a neighbor,
or even their homosexual partner -- so long as the offer is available
to all employees and not only to those involved in a homosexual

"Which begs the question, if a government
employee isn't allowed to put her sick grandmother on her health
insurance plan, why should employees involved in a homosexual
relationship be singled out for special treatment as if they're equal
or similar to marriage, when everyone knows as a matter of common sense
they're not?" Glenn said.

* A government employer could simply
provide that all children in an employee's household are eligible for
employee benefits such as health insurance, regardless of their
relationship to the employee.

* The simplest and most obvious
alternative, Glenn said, would be for a government employer to adopt a
policy which states that any individual eligible for benefits as of
Nov. 1, 2004 will remain eligible for benefits perpetually thereafter.
"Under that policy," Glenn said, "every single person currently
receiving any kind of benefit would continue to do so, but it would not
be on the basis of a government employer singling out homosexual
relationships for the special treatment of being recognized as equal or
similar to marriage."

(END of news release quote)


now, three and a half years after that election, not only the Michigan
Supreme Court and the news media, but even the ACLU and other opponents
of the amendment, have admitted that how AFA-MI described the
amendment's effects back in 2004 have been right all along.

Supreme Court this month simply upheld an earlier Court of Appeals
decision under which the unmarried "partners" of government employees
have and will continue to receive benefits under broader eligibility
criteria adopted in order to comply with Michigan's Marriage Protection

The irony, especially in light of false
characterizations such as yours, Don, is that under the broader
criteria, more Michigan citizens -- not fewer -- are now eligible for
coverage under government employees' health care plans.

Here's the truth, which you didn't report:

BLADE ("gay" newspaper in D.C.): "Despite the ruling, state employers
and major universities in the state are still claiming the right to
provide benefits to the partners of ("gay") employees by instead
extending coverage to adult dependents in employees households. Sean
Kosofsky, director of policy for the Triangle Foundation, a Michigan
gay advocacy group, said a number of employers redrew policies to offer
benefits while complying with court decisions. 'We are hoping that all
public employers that want to offer these benefits will do the same,
including new employers,' he said."


FREE PRESS: "The practical effect of the Michigan Supreme Court ruling
on the marriage amendment's effect on same-sex benefits may be next to
nothing... The silver lining, if there is one, is that public employers
who provided same-sex health benefits have so far found a way around
the amendment's strictures by offering benefits MORE WIDELY than just
to same-sex or heterosexual couples; the University of Michigan, for
example, now offers employees the chance to extend benefits to any
nonrelated designee."


INDEPENDENT (University of Michigan): "The decision should not affect
the University's employee health care coverage. After the 2007 Court of
Appeals decision, the University no longer offers benefits on the basis
of same-sex domestic partner relationships; but had changed their
policies so that employees' partners would REMAIN COVERED."


STATE JOURNAL: The "ruling Wednesday by Michigan's high court about
same-sex benefits is likely to have little local effect. That's because
months ago, many Lansing officials began rewording their domestic
partner benefits packages."


ARBOR NEWS: "When a Michigan Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday upheld a
ban on governments and universities extending benefits to the gay
partners of employees, the University of Michigan and city of Ann Arbor
were already prepared. U-M and the city had previously altered their
policies by taking out any mention of 'same-sex.' That revision should
allow them to CONTINUE EXTENDING BENEFITS within the law, said
officials with the ACLU, city of Ann Arbor and U-M. ...ACLU of Michigan
Executive Director Kary Moss said her organization will work with
municipalities on their policy language so it adheres with Wednesday's
ruling and STILL OFFERS BENEFITS to unmarried couples."


PRESS: "Gay rights advocates...are confident that public-sector
employers have successfully rewritten or will revise their benefit
plans so same-sex partners can KEEP GETTING HEALTH CARE."


FREE PRESS: "There is likely to be no immediate impact from the ruling
because public employers in Michigan who had offered such benefits
already had changed their policies to ensure their employees' partners
WOULD REMAIN COVERED. ...Dozens of public employees' partners most
likely will be able to continue to be eligible for health care under
benefit changes that allow unmarried employees to cover a designated


Jay Kaplan of the Michigan ACLU, chief counsel for the homosexual
plaintiffs in the case at issue, as reported by Lansing City Pulse:
"'The Michigan Court of Appeals decision never said that public
employers could not provide health care coverage to domestic partners
of employees,' Kaplan wrote in an e-mail. He said that employers CAN
do not specifically recognize the domestic partner relationship by
filing domestic partner benefit forms, for example when determining
criteria for insurance eligibility."


the Lines, a homosexual activist newsweekly in Detroit, reported:
"(ACLU-Michigan lawyer Jay) Kaplan says that even under the Appeals
Court ruling, benefits CAN BE OFFERED, but they have to be done in a
way which does not recognize same-sex partners or relationships."


Alliance for Equality, a homosexual activist group, said in a news
release: "The Michigan Court of Appeals did not say that health
insurance coverage for domestic partners is illegal. The court said
that public employers cannot use criteria that recognizes the domestic
partner relationship."


a joint website by the ACLU and the homosexual activist Triangle
Foundation: "Question: Have any employers ended their benefits for
domestic partners in respond to the Michigan Court of Appeals decision?
Answer: So far to the best of our knowledge, no public employer has
terminated health insurance coverage for domestic partners of
employees. It should be noted that as flawed as the Court of Appeals
decision is, it did not say that domestic partners could not receive
health insurance coverage. The Court held that a same-sex relationship
could not be recognized for eligibility purposes for health insurance
coverage. However, employers can use other criteria where the same-sex
relationship is not recognized for health insurance coverage. We have
been working with public employers, whose contracts may be ending to
develop alternative criteria as a way to ENSURE CONTINUED COVERAGE,
while our case is on appeal."


line, Don: no one in Michigan has lost any benefit, as AFA-Michigan
truthfully said before, during, and after the Nov 2004 election,
including in the Ann Arbor News story you quoted.

Which means, obviously, that Micah Clark of AFA-Indiana has been telling the truth, too.                         

Comments: (3)



Kurt, I have taken note of your post, and note that you have not chosen to acknoweldge my conspicuous Bilerico acknowledgement of Gary Gregg's comments and request that readers consider them (something I never see your own site doing) nor the rest of the comment dialogue. You also failed to quote my own acknowledgement differentiating the Michigan AFA's behavior from that of its allies. I continue to contend that Micah Clark has engaged in tactics similar to those of those allies. I also note Micah Clark's continued conspicuous absence, his apparently choosing to use both you and Gary as his surrogates. Given his past practice of heralding decisions in other states concerning marriage, his silence continues to be curious, to say the least.

Having been without Internet service for most of last week after the big May 30th Indianapolis storm damage, I have not been able to complete some additional gathering of information concerning Gary Gregg's assertions that nobody in Michigan actually lost benefits because of the amendment. There still appears to be lack of agreement up there on that aspect. Once I do that, I will address the matter in more detail.

My Bilerico post related to the fact that unlike the many other times decisions in other states had seemed to vindicate positions taken by groups such as IFI and the AFA, Micah Clark and others ad loudly called attention to them. For example, the Indiana AFA website piece concerning the Ohio domestic violence decision. So the silence concerning the Michigan decision was rather obvious. I'm sure that a similar silence on the part of "gay activists" in similar circumstances would have had you all calling wide attention to it.

What occurred in Michigan concerning the pre-vote debate versus subsequent arguments in court has been termed "bait and switch". Like all such terms, it may stand for a wide variety of practices ranging from outright fraud to less egregious manipulations and shifts of emphasis depending on the circumstances. In its milder forms is generally accepted as part of the political/commercial landscape as not exceeding ethical boundaries. Perhaps the parallel is the range from "lying" through "shading the truth", to "stretching it just a bit". Perhaps some forms of it don’t deserve such a strong term as “bait and switch”.

In going back and reviewing a wide variety of material about what was said and by whom before the folks in Michigan went to the polls to vote on the proposed amendment, it seems to be that phrases like "this isn't about benefits" and "benefits won't be affected" were thrown around a lot, sometimes by themselves, sometimes accompanied by more detailed explanations. My own perception, and trying as best I can to put myself in the position of a persuadable voter [something admit is probably as difficult for me as for Gary], is that items and statements put out by the CPFM, a companion organization to the Michigan AFA, tended to downplay the benefits aspect and emphasize that only the definition of marriage was involved. So on balance I stand by my assertion that when they went into court and chimed in concerning benefits based on a same-sex relationship, they were engaging in "bait and switch" pretty high up on the scale.

The materials Gary Glenn has pointed out have caused me to revaluate his Michigan AFA's performance in a more favorable light. While I remain suspicious of his underlying motivations and the relative emphasis he may have placed on what was said, and find his overall positions trying to deny equal rights to gays and lesbians as bad as that of Micah Clark and others in Indiana, it does appear that when he said that "benefits would not be affected" he usually also made reasonable reference to the position that same-sex couples could be covered by framing their qualifications so as not to run afoul of the amendment's terms. So I acknowledge the Michigan AFA's later arguing the same in court was not basically inconsistent with the overall content of his pre-vote statements.

I essentially said this in a subsequent reply, which Kurt has chosen not to quote. Gary's response in turn was that my perceptions of what any organization may have said were not important. The bottom line for him was that no same-sex couple lost benefits. Since I have seen some conflicting opinions on that claim, I have taken some additional time to look at that aspect. I have thus far not been able to find specific circumstances where existing coverage was lost. If some turn up I will be among the first to call that to VR’s and Gary’s attention. Assuming there won’t be any, I don’t believe it necessarily ends the inquiry or concern over future developments, but won’t belabor that in this particular response. I would say, however, that the fact that no existing beneficiaries lost benefits because criteria were rewritten to satisfy the Michigan amendment does not itself justify questionable representational tactics when seeking votes for this or any other amendment. The guy who stands by and doesn’t call 911 when he see’s a bad traffic accident doesn’t get off the hook just because the passengers weren’t seriously injured.

As to any change in my feelings concerning Micah Clark’s own tactics in Indiana, I would only say that after my additional consideration I would continue to compare him more with the CPFM in Michigan than with his sister AFA organization there. Until Micah tempers his reactions to any analytical criticism of such things as the language that he and his colleagues chose to put in SJR7, for example as merely “gay activist scare tactics”, I’m not inclined to view his approach any more favorably. There are serious questions of underlying public policy and of the meaning and ramifications of language to affect them so that those policy decisions are understood by both an informed electorate as well as the members of the Indiana Supreme Court that he all too often dismisses as “unelected activist judges” for some purposes but not others. These exist whether or not one agrees totally with one side of the “cultural divide” or the other on this issue. Perhaps if Micah’s behavior and approach, and willingness to engage the legitimate concerns of more than just those who subscribe to his ideology, had been different over the past few years, there might well have been some form of proposed amendment concerning marriage on the Indiana ballot this coming November. As it is, he so lightly cannot shift that accountability elsewhere.

Incidentally, I see that in my above comment I referred to "Kurt", and now realize that Kristen was the author. Sorry about that; much as we might differ concerning this whole marriage stuff, I have absolutely no interest in promoting discord in the Luidhardt household over journalistic credit disputes. (: