CINCINNATI (TDB) -- A state appeals court in Butler County says Republican State Rep. Tom Brinkman has no legal standing to challenge Miami University's policy of offering health care benefits to domestic partners of the school's gay employees. The 12th District Ohio Court of Appeals issued a unanimous 3-0 decision that dismissed the case. Judge James A Brogan wrote: "We conclude that Brinkman's status as an Ohio taxpayer does not give him standing to challenge the university policy of providing health insurance benefits to same-sex domestic partners of its employees."
Brinkman is an ultra-conservative who represents a state House district that covers Cincinnati's east side and suburbs. He reportedly is considering a run for Ohio's 2nd Congressional District, a seat now held by GOP U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt. He is term-limited out of the legislature in 2008. Brinkman has been a leader in Ohio's anti-gay rights movement, and a judge in Hamilton County has publicly accused him of trying to alter petitions that would have placed a local anti-gay rights referendum on the ballot in Cincinnati. The judge, Robert A. Ruehlman, described Brinkman's conduct as crooked.
The appeals court ruling was a victory for gay rights and Ohio's state university system. Campuses around the state offer similar benefits and contend they are a recruiting tool to lure in or retain talented faculty. The schools could have been forced to drop the benefits by an adverse decision. The case was based on Ohio's November 2004 state constitutional amendment that bans gay marriage -- Brinkman's argument was that providing same-sex benefits for gay couples is discrimination against non-gay couples. He contended they are not eligible because Miami University declines to recognize their heterosexual domestic partnerships.
Miami University began providing benefits to domestic partners three years ago. School officials say the benefits cost about $100,000 a year and estimate about 30 people receive them. Lambda Legal fought the Brinkman challenge in court and has more about the case on its Website. Lambda represented two professors, Jean Lynch and Yvonne Keller, and contended Miami's policy had no direct impact on Ohio taxpayers because the benefits were not paid with state funds.