Thursday, November 30, 2006

Trouble for Domestic Partner Benefits in Ohio

On November 22, Ohio state legislator Thomas Brinkman sued Miami University for its Domestic Partner benefits policy, stating that it is in violation of Ohio's fairly recently amended constitution.

Brinkman has become the proverbial scum on the lake at Miami, for the students that actually show up to hear him speak attack him on the basis of their perceptions of him, not on the merits of his case.

Today the Miami Student newspaper reported that Brinkman's lawsuit against Miami has been thrown out of court because the Ohio taxpayer, legislator, and parent of a Miami student forgot to mention that he pays tuition to Miami University in the hearing. The Alliance Defense Fund, who is supporting Brinkman against Miami, have said they will appeal. You can read the judge's decision here, in which the lawyer for Miami foolishly claims that the judge made no judgments about the merit of the case:

Plaintiff, Thomas Brinkman, a taxpayer and citizen, disagrees sharply with Defendant, Miami University, an instrumentality of the state, regarding its provision of medical insurance benefits to those it classifies as same-sex domestic partners of its employees. Brinkman maintains that Miami’s policy violates the Ohio Constitution. Arguably Brinkman is correct, but he lacks the requisite, adverse legal interest in the dispute.


Arguably the State of Ohio, through its instrumentality or arm, Miami University, has done that which is constitutionally proscribed. It has seemingly created a category of persons, same-sex domestic partners of its employees, to whom the state extends the same kind of medical insurance benefits, and perhaps other benefits, which the state has traditionally reserved for spouses of employees. It is obvious that in order for the same-sex domestic partners of employees to qualify for benefits, the relationship between the cohabiting persons must be virtually the same as that of spouses.

The judge then goes on to question whether Brinkman has any legal recourse, and contemplates ways that the Ohio state legislature or the governor could act to bring Miami University in line with the Ohio Constitution.

Miami and its lawyers claim this is a victory, but this is a resounding defeat for Domestic Partner benefits in Ohio. It's clear that the judge realizes that Miami's policy violates the Ohio constitution, and he makes a specific rejection of the argument that if the benefits are not funded through taxpayer moneys the violation does not occur (and also makes the comment that Miami's attempt to make this accounting change recognizes the University's understanding of its policy's violation of the constitution. Whoops).

So there you have it. I'm sure the appeal is on the way, and we'll have to wait and see how long it takes for the will of the people of Ohio to be done.

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