Domestic Partner Benefits to be cut in Kalamazoo

By Todd A. Heywood

{ITAL Capitol Correspondent

And wire reports}

KALAMAZOO- The city of Kalamazoo has become the first public employer in Michigan to end its domestic partnership program which had provided health benefits to same-sex partners of LBGT employees.

Kalamazoo City Manager Keith Collard cited the decision last month by the state's high court not to issue a stay on the appeals court February decision as the reason for the cut.

The Michigan Court of Appeals had ruled that providing such benefits violated the state Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. In that ruling, the Court of Appeals gave its decision immediate effect. While the Supreme Court will take up the case, it ruled that it would not issue a stay on the Appeals Court's order that its decision would take immediate effect.

Shortly after the ruling, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox ruled that current contracts with domestic partner benefits would not be impacted, but any new contracts under negotiation could not include such benefits in the future.

"It's not like there is a contract in place, they have been offering this as a matter of policy. And according to this bad decision, they could have decided to stop offering benefits anytime," said Jay Kaplan of the ACLU of Kalamazoo's decision. "We are disappointed they chose to do so now."

Kaplan says that even under the Appeals Court ruling, benefits can be offered, but they have to be done in a way which does not recognize same-sex partners or relationships.

The Ann Arbor News also reported that the Ann Arbor public schools will cancel their benefits program for same-sex partners when the current contract ends in 2009.

The Kalamazoo decision impacts four couples, while the Ann Arbor public schools decision impacts 15 couples.

The University of Michigan, the City of Ann Arbor and Wastenaw County are all reviewing how to handle their domestic partner programs and could end them. No decisions have been announced on these groups.

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