Brinkman v. Miami University, et al.

Summary

When a lawsuit by the antigay Alliance Defense Fund and ultraconservative Ohio legislator Thomas Brinkman threatened Miami University’s domestic partner benefits program, Lambda Legal intervened on behalf of Professors Jean Lynch and Yvonne Keller — two university professors whose families stood to lose their medical coverage if the ADF prevailed. The ADF lawsuit claimed that Miami University’s domestic partner benefits violate Ohio’s constitutional amendment, which limits marriage to a man and a woman. Lambda Legal argued that Ohio’s constitutional amendment does not apply to the university because it concerns only marriage and does not address the legality of domestic partnership benefits. Lambda Legal also moved to dismiss the case on the ground that Brinkman lacked legal standing to sue, since providing health care to same-sex couples caused him no injury. In November 2006, the court accepted Lambda Legal's argument and dismissed the ADF lawsuit. The ADF appealed and the Ohio Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of Brinkman's lawsuit.

Context

While constitutional amendments that bar same-sex couples from marriage are presented as efforts to “protect heterosexual marriage,” the reality is that once these antigay amendments are passed, the floodgates are opened to attacks on our hard-won rights, including domestic partnership protections.

Lambda Legal's Impact

The court’s decision frees our plaintiffs from becoming pawns in a politically motivated lawsuit by right-wing extremists. Lambda Legal is taking a stand against antigay forces around the country, defending ground we’ve already gained in the fight for equality.

History

  • November 2005 Brinkman, represented by ADF, files lawsuit with Butler County Court of Common Please to take away domestic partnership benefits two days before Thanksgiving.
  • December 2005 Lambda Legal files motion to intervene on behalf of Professors Jean Lynch and Yvonne Keller and their domestic partners, after the domestic partner benefits offered by their employer, Miami University, come under attack by the antigay Alliance Defense Fund.
  • January 2006: Court grants Lambda Legal’s motion to intervene.
  • July 2006 Lambda Legal files papers asking the Butler County Court of Common Pleas to dismiss the ADF lawsuit.
  • November 2006 Victory! Lawsuit dismissed.
  • December 2006 Brinkman and ADF file a notice of appeal.
  • August 2007 The Ohio Court of Appeals affirms dismissal of Brinkman's lawsuit.
  • November 2007 Brinkman and the ADF give up and do not appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Case Information

Status: Closed
Outcome: Victory

Plaintiffs

Jean Lynch and Yvonne Keller

Attorneys

Lambda Legal
James P. Madigan

Co-counsel/Cooperating Attorneys
Alphonse Gerhardstein & Jennifer Branch of Gerhardstein, Branch & Laufman, in Cincinnati, OH