Michigan Senate Democrats suggest legislative oversight, payment from attorney general funds

LANSING, Michigan, July 27, 2015 — Senator Curtis Hertel, Jr. (D-East Lansing) today called for Attorney General Bill Schuette to be fiscally responsible and pay the nearly $2 million in legal fees from the recent same-sex marriage fight out of his department’s operating budget.

“The hard working people of Michigan and their families should not have to suffer because of a Republican’s radical agenda,” Hertel, Jr. said. “Political posturing at the risk of taxpayer dollars should not be allowed to happen.”

Six lawyers who represented April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, the Hazel Park couple whose relationship was at the heart of the landmark Supreme Court marriage decision last month, are asking a federal judge to make the state of Michigan pay for nearly $2 million in legal fees. This figure does not represent the total cost of the plaintiffs’ legal battle, which they ultimately won when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in June.

“Reimbursing the plaintiffs for their legal costs is the right thing to do,” Hertel, Jr. said. “However, Schuette’s poor decisions and playing with taxpayer dollars is risky business that should never have happened to begin with.”

Senate Democrats previously attempted to stop Schuette from further pursuing the legal battle when in May 2014, Senator Bert Johnson (D-Detroit) offered an amendment to Senate Bill 767. The amendment would have prevented funds from being used to appeal or pursue litigation in the case of DeBoer vs. Snyder in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

The amendment was not adopted, falling to a 26-11 vote, along party lines.

Numerous other states — including Arizona, New Jersey and Pennsylvania — chose not to continue their respective court challenges.

Hertel will explore all options for solutions, including legislative oversight and further investigation into the Attorney General’s use of taxpayer dollars. An amendment to future budgets and legislation to specifically require that these funds come solely from the Attorney General’s budget, are being considered.

Schuette’s gross annual operating budget is $92.1 million for the coming fiscal year, more than five times the amount of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights’ annual budget and nearly $20 million more than when he first took office.

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