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Michigan governor signs law banning benefits for public employees' domestic partners

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder [official website] Thursday signed into law a bill [HB 4770 text, PDF] prohibiting public employers from providing medical or other fringe benefits to their employees' domestic partners. Snyder provided a signing statement [text, PDF] noting that a new definition of public employer in the bill excludes university employees. He said this is necessary based on various Michigan Supreme Court cases and the several sections of the Michigan Constitution, including Article VIII, Section 5 [text, html], Section 6 [text, html] and Article XI, Section 5 [text, html], that give institutions of higher education authority over the control and direction of all expenditures of the institutions' funds. HB 4770 passed in the state Senate earlier this month passed the House in September. The Michigan American Civil Liberties Union [advocacy website] (ACLU) criticized the bill with Kary L. Moss, ACLU of Michigan executive director, saying [press release] that its approval during the holiday season is merely "mean-spirited and cruel." Moss said the organization will prepare to challenge the law during the next few weeks.

Many states, like Michigan, are facing issues pertaining to benefits for same-sex partners. Last month, the ACLU filed a brief [JURIST report] against a similar bill in Montana where the State approved a law that denied partnership benefits to same-sex couples. They argued that the new law violates of the Montana Constitution. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled [JURIST report] in September that a bill [text, PDF] rescinding health benefits for same-sex couples in the public sector is against the equal protection clause of the Arizona Constitution.

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