Insurance Considerations for Michigan Same Sex Couples


Lansing auto accident lawyer Steve Sinas describes how Michigan same sex couples have more defined rights in the insurance context.

The legalization of gay marriage by the Supreme Court in Obergefell v Hodges late last month has had a number of implications outside of the family law and domestic relations realm: Michigan same sex couples now have a number of insurance considerations to keep in mind as a result of the High Court’s landmark decision.

Steve Sinas, one of our Lansing auto accident lawyers, sat down with Haley Nelson of WILX to discuss a number of the insurance matters that will now impact same sex couples in Michigan. He noted that marital status is quite significant in insurance situations, especially when they deal with auto insurance and wrongful death matters.

Steve explained that, before the Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage, thereby invalidating the previous ban of recognizing same sex couples in Michigan, gay and lesbian couples were, for all intents and purposes, just two individuals living together. Since they could not be married under Michigan law, nor would their out of state marriages be recognized in Michigan, same sex couples could not be the beneficiaries to each other’s insurance policies, nor could they file suit under the Wrongful Death Act upon the death of their spouse.

In the Michigan auto no-fault law context, for example, spouses or relatives domiciled under the same household may be covered under the same no-fault policy. For gay couples in Michigan, however, this was not the case prior to Obergefell. Under Michigan law, they were not related, and so had to maintain separate policies. That is no longer the case, for as we explained in a previous blog post, “Same-sex couples [can] now marry and will, therefore, be ‘spouses’ and able to draw no-fault benefits from one another’s auto insurer.”

The law surrounding wrongful death claims, specifically who may be entitled to file a lawsuit, has also become more inclusive with the Supreme Court’s legalization of gay marriage and the subsequent lifting of Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban. Under the Michigan Wrongful Death Act, a deceased individual’s spouse, children, descendants, parents, grandparents, and siblings are among those who may be entitled to damages as a result of the deceased’s death. Before Obergefell, same sex couples would not be able to file suit under the wrongful death act upon the loss of their partner. Why? Because under Michigan law, they were not married (remember, gay couples married out of state were not married under state law). As of late last month, this is no longer the case.

As Steve explained, same sex couples in Michigan now know that they have more defined rights as a result of the Obergefell decision, both in the insurance realm as well as in many family law matters. As was mentioned towards the end of the segment, however, adoption could be a far more complicated matter, as the legality of an adoption agency’s refusal to provide adoption services for same sex couples based on its sincerely held religious beliefs may become an issue Michigan courts may need to resolve down the road.