Michigan to consider dropping health benefits for unmarried partners of state employees


LANSING, Mich. — A pair of measures is due for consideration and a vote in the Michigan House of Representatives on Thursday that would eliminate health care benefits for unmarried partners of public employees.

The language contained in both measures specifically prohibits any state government entity in Michigan from providing the health care benefits, and would also prohibit unions from including similar benefits in collective bargaining agreements.

According to the advocacy group Equality Michigan, Rep. Dave Agema (R-Grandville) and the State Attorney General, Bill Schuette, both of whom have publicly stated their opposition to LGBTQ equality rights, have been trying to strip away health care benefits for same-sex couples since February.

The Michigan Civil Service Commission in a ruling in January of this year, had extended health care benefits for other eligible adults who live with state employees. The proposed bills — House Bills 4770 and 4771 — would not only eliminate this extension, but go further to prohibit other entities, like public universities and city governments, from providing such benefits.

Pro-equality advocates are outraged. They say that lawmakers have consistently attacked gay and transgender citizens throughout the year.

“These bills are yet another desperate attack on our community. 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,” said Emily Dievendorf, the Director of Policy for Equality Michigan, in a statement.

“Tens of thousands of public and private employees in our state have access to health care benefits for unmarried partners. Policies that provide such benefits are used throughout the country to treat employees fairly and retain talented workers. Leaders from Fortune 500 companies, public school districts, and municipal governments across the country know that their workforces are stronger when employees are able to take care of their families. Passage of these bills would help run our state into the ground.

“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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