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ACLU: Michigan Domestic Partners Can't Wait

January 23, 2012

DETROIT - When Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed the ban on public employee domestic partner benefits last month, the law took effect immediately and people started losing coverage. While activists have been protesting in Lansing, the ACLU has sued.

However, many people with serious health issues say they can't wait for the year or so it may take for the issue to make its way through the court. So, the ACLU plans to seek an injunction to stop enforcement of the law until a final decision is made.

Michigan ACLU attorney Jay Kaplan says he's hopeful the law will be overturned because it singles out domestic partners while allowing all kinds of family members to keep coverage.

"A brother, a sister, a cousin, an aunt, an uncle, you know, a sixth cousin. The only people who can't qualify under this criteria are same-sex partners."

Governor Snyder has said he signed the bill because the Civil Service Commission shouldn't have added the benefits while Michigan was in a financial crisis.

Kaplan says it could be costly to defend the law in court.

However, he says, he's not sure the state will really save much money by denying domestic partner benefits.

"We're talking about three employees here, six employees there. It's a very, very small population."

Even though the law bans public employee benefits for any domestic partner, Maxine Thome, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, sees it as discriminating against homosexual couples because in Michigan they can't legally marry to get insurance for their partners.

"Heterosexual couples that, for whatever reason, may not want to marry, it forces them to do that. For LGBT people, LGBT people can't marry. So there's no answer."

State universities are exempt from the law, but it does cover community colleges, public schools, cities and counties.

A U.S. Court of Appeals has struck down a similar law in Arizona.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - MI