Everyone from college students to the state government are pinching pennies these days, but some of these legislative measures take swats at some of Michigan’s most vulnerable citizens: the LGBT community.

On Dec. 22, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed House Bill 4770, which prohibits public employers from providing medical or fringe benefits to same-sex or domestic partners with the exception of higher-education institutions, which operate with constitutional autonomy, and members classified state civil service, who, under the constitution are responsible for setting rates of compensation and regulating all conditions of employment in the classified service.

Since the bill was passed, demonstrations (including Wednesday’s) have been held on the Lansing Capitol building steps in protest of the domestic partnership benefit ban, and the American Civil Liberties Union of

Michigan has filed a federal lawsuit against the ban, saying the law was unconstitutional. And they’re right, to an extent.

Though the governor justified the signing of the bill as a cost-cutting measure in dire economic times, it’s pretty clear by any definition that H.B. 4770 is an act of blatant discrimination against the LGBT community.

However, the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act only forbids discrimination based on age, race, sex, religion and national origin, leaving LGBT individuals in a legislative lurch where discrimination, no matter how unjust, is technically legal.

The ACLU issued a press release following the signing of the bill to announce the federal lawsuit filed on behalf of the schoolteachers, city and county employers, and their domestic partners who will subsequently
lose their health insurance. In the press release, they quote an Ann Arbor Public

Schools teacher, Peter Ways, who says, “This is not about politics or ideology for us. This is about real families who are facing the real consequences of discriminatory laws. Just like our colleagues whose families will continue to receive health insurance, we want to care for our families.”

And that’s exactly it. If America is all we say it is — equal opportunity, rich with diversity and culture — then the rejection of this law should have been a no-brainer. H.B. 4770 is not a step forward; it’s a step backward. It’s a lapse back into the kind of in-the-box thinking that is founded on old theoretical principles that have very real, tangible repercussions for the families who fall victim to it’s discrimination.

Proponents of the bill have argued that unmarried straight couples are also ineligible for partner benefits, but in a state where same-sex marriage has been constitutionally banned since 2004, that flimsy excuse doesn’t hold water.

In a nation founded on equality and fairness, it seems counter-intuitive for Michigan to continue on with closed-mindedness, especially when you consider the rising generation of young people, who, like their parents before them, are becoming less traditional and conservative than their grandparents before that.

If Michigan wants to attract more young people, this is the exact opposite way to go about it. More often than not, the young people that they hope to keep in Michigan won’t be as satisfied with the law as the conservative lawmakers that endorsed it.