Michigan Catholic Church Approves Offering Health Care to Same-Sex Couples

By Drama Queen (Church of the Pilgrims) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Catholic employees in Michigan can now extend their health benefits to a same-sex partner, friend, or relative.

The body who supervises health care for Catholic employees in Michigan, the Michigan Catholic Conference has taken a new move that could enable gay Catholic couples to take advantage of health benefits for married people. This comes despite theChurch's statement of condemning same-sex marriages.

An equal rights activist, Stephanie White, was impressed by the proposal, and said that “It’s always good when another discrimination barrier gets broken down.” All Catholic employees in Michigan will have the opportunity to voluntarily register for this health benefits plan that will see their partners get medical and dental benefits starting this Wednesday.

In order to qualify for the Domiciled Health Plan, one must be 18 years or older, have lived with the person who’s seeking coverage for at least 6 months, and have interdependence with the employee of Michigan Catholic Conference. The letter does not specifically say “same-sex partner” or use the word “gay,” so it could also be interpreted to extend coverage to anyone the employee is living with, such as a friend or relative, not just a same-sex partner.

Speaking about the health plan, MCC Spokesperson David Maluchnik said that the plan is based on residency issues as guided by the federal law rather than sexuality issues. “Our health benefits plan is expanding its eligibility to include a legally domiciled adult and, as such, the benefit is not dependent upon the relationship. It’s dependent upon residency. As long as the qualifications are met, then the benefit can be extended.”

Stephanie White has welcomed the new health care policy in a positive way as it will boost the level of equality in Michigan. She said, “It’s really good news, It shows how important federal action is in saying discrimination is wrong and that people should be treated fairly. It’s a win-win.”

The Spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Detroit Ned McGrath also defended Catholic Church proposed health policy saying that they have not changed their inclination concerning gay marriage as a Church. The Michigan Catholic employees are never required to disclose their sexual orientation.

The Michigan Catholic Conference has been at the forefront in the fight against gay marriages since 2004. The court case against Michigan’s gay marriage ban was filed by Hazel Park residents April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse. Although gay marriage was legalized by the U.S. Supreme Court last year on June, the MCC is seen just to follow the directive as dictated upon by the Supreme Court.

“The MCC was one of the biggest contributors to Prop 2 in 2004 which created the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in Michigan,” she said. “The MCC also vigorously supported (Gov. Rick) Snyder and (Attorney General Bill) Schuette’s failed effort to uphold the ban. Only time will tell what the MCC’s true priorities are,” Attorney Dana Nessel said.

Supporters of same-sex marriage see the move as one small step towards equality.

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