Michigan Bill Barring Domestic Partner Benefits Goes to Governor

December 9, 2011 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A law barring domestic partner benefits for public employees in Michigan is on its way to Governor Rick Snyder following passage by both the state House and Senate.

The Detroit Free Press reports the bill is aimed at ending programs enacted by state universities, school districts and other government agencies to extend healthcare and other benefits to the unmarried partners of employees, usually to make those benefits available to same-sex couples (see MI House Approves Bill to Stop Domestic Partner Benefits).  

Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel issued a statement in which she said Snyder is expected to sign the legislation “pending a final review.”  

Backers of the legislation criticized the programs as expensive and a violation of the state’s 2004 constitutional amendment defining marriage as involving one man and one woman approved by Michigan voters in 2004 (see MI Couples: Amendment Didn’t Kill Public Same-Sex Benefits).   

According to the Free Press, if signed by Snyder, the legislation would prohibit domestic partner benefits for employees subject to state labor law governing the treatment of government employees. It was not immediately clear whether that would apply to employees of the state’s 15 public universities. Supporters of the bill in the House said it would, but Mike Boulus, executive director of the university Presidents Council, said it would not. 

The ban also would not apply to public employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement that authorizes domestic partner benefits until that contract expires.

The issue has created much controversy over the years, with the Michigan State Supreme Court weighing in that providing health insurance benefits to same-sex domestic partners violates the marriage amendment of the state constitution (see MI High Court Says No to Provision of Benefits to Same-Sex Couples).