Capitol Building in Lansing.

House soon to vote on eliminating domestic partner benefits

GOP attacks health care for partners of state employees

By Tara Cavanaugh

LANSING- This week the state House will vote on eliminating health insurance benefits for the domestic partners of state employees.

The bills, HB 4770 and 4771, would prohibit any government entity in the state - including universities and city governments - from providing such benefits and prohibit unions from including them in collective bargaining agreements.

The GOP attack on domestic partner benefits began this winter when the Michigan Civil Service Commission voted to allow state employees to share health care benefits with an "other eligible adult." The OEA term is used in place of "domestic partner benefits," which the state Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional in 2008, after Michigan voters approved an anti-gay marriage amendment to the state constitution in 2004. The state Supreme Court ruled that defining marriage as only between a man and a woman also means that benefits - such as health benefits - should only be shared between those who can legally marry in Michigan.

State Republicans already and tried and failed twice this year to overturn the MCSC benefits.

Rep. Dave Agema from Grandville is the primary sponsor of the bills. Attorney General Bill Schuette also supports the bills and has sued the MCSC, challenging the constitutionality of its ability to grant the benefits.

The MCSC is an independent, state constitution-created entity of four officials who administer civil and human resource services. It has existed since 1908. None of its decisions have ever been reversed by state lawmakers.

The benefits for state employees' OEAs are set to take effect Oct. 1.

"These bills are yet another desperate attack on our community," said Emily Dievendorf, director of policy at Equality Michigan. "Radical lawmakers are attempting to interfere with local employment policy and weaken working families' ability to care for their loved ones. They are trying to codify their anti-gay biases into law. It's simply intolerable and voters should be furious.

"We call on the House to vote these bills down immediately and send a message that lawmakers value fundamental fairness, strong working families, and a healthy workforce."

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