Ohio judge dismisses domestic partner benefits lawsuit

Tim Magaw

An Ohio judge dismissed a lawsuit yesterday against Miami University which challenged the school’s use of domestic partner benefits.

“Miami University is pleased with the judge’s decision,” said Claire Wagner, director of news and public information at the university. “What it means is we can continue offering benefits to eligible faculty and staff.”

State Rep. Thomas Brinkman Jr., a Cincinnati Republican, filed the suit as a taxpayer in November 2005, saying Miami offers partner benefits only to same-sex partnerships, not heterosexual non-married couples.

Because it is only for same-sex couples, he said it imitates marriage, violating Ohio’s marriage amendment which states a marriage union can only exist between a man and a woman.

Judge Charles Pater of the Butler County Court of Common Pleas dismissed the suit, citing Brinkman didn’t have legal standing to file it because he wasn’t affected in a significant way by Miami’s domestic partner benefits. However, Pater ruled that the dismissal should not be interpreted to say no one can challenge the domestic partner benefits.

John Barham, Queer Liberation Front co-chair, said he was happy when he heard the news of the case’s dismissal, but the QLF’s official position is that it’s “cautiously-optimistic” when it comes to Kent State offering the benefits. Barham said although this is a step forward for offering domestic partner benefits at Kent State, the administration has been adamant about not implementing them.

“My opinion is that they may have another hurdle for our community,” he said.

President Lester Lefton said the university’s position on domestic partner benefits has not changed since the dismissal of the Miami suit.

“When the Constitution of Ohio is changed or the Supreme Court strikes down the constitutional ban on domestic partner benefits, the university will reconsider and possibly change its position,” Lefton said.

If Kent State supported domestic partner benefits, he said the university would be brought to court. Lefton said the university would be spending students’ tuition money on the case. As an officer of the state, he said the university is not willing to break the law.

Contact ethnic affairs reporter Tim Magaw at [email protected].