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Michigan governor signs bill to ban healthcare coverage for unmarried partners

Thursday, December 22, 2011
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LANSING, Mich. — Following months of heated debate, Michigan Republican Governor Rick Snyder on Thursday signed House Bill 4770, eliminating health care coverage for domestic partners of public employees, and prohibiting any government entity in the state from providing such coverage.

Rick Snyder

The bill has attracted sharp criticism from the media, university leaders, business leaders, and progressive organizations throughout the state.

HB 4771, which the Governor vetoed, would have prohibited unions from including similar coverage in collective bargaining agreements. Both bills passed the legislature on December 13 — lawsuits on behalf of affected families will likely be filed soon.

Anti-gay Republicans Representative Dave Agema (sponsor of the bills) and Attorney General Bill Schuette have been trying to strip away health care coverage for gay and lesbian families since February, said Emily Dievendorf, Director of Policy for Equality Michigan.

“Governor Snyder’s support for this bill is appalling. Today, the Governor told unmarried public employees that they can no longer care for their partners or children. He has put hardworking gay and lesbian couples and their children into harm’s way by eliminating important health care coverage. He has spent the last two years talking about creating a welcoming state with a attractive business climate, and this bill flies in the face of those goals,” Dievendorf said.

“All families in our state, including gay and lesbian families, should have fair access to health care coverage. Governor Snyder caved to the radical social agenda coming from the legislature. He has rejected our shared commitment to economic growth. In order to compete in today’s global business environment, we must build a culture that prioritizes fundamental fairness. This law will only serve to hurt Michigan.”

The bill affects many public entities that currently provide coverage for domestic partners of employees, including:

  • University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University and 11 of the 12 other public universities;
  • State of Michigan (33,000 eligible employees under contracts that went into effect in 2011);
  • At least eight cities, counties and school districts, including Ann Arbor and Kalamazoo.

“The decision to take healthcare benefits away from families just in time for the holidays is mean-spirited and cruel. Governor Snyder had an opportunity to show real leadership and put an end to the political games; instead he approved an extreme policy that sets our state back, jeopardizes our economy and puts our families at risk,” said Kary Moss, executive director of the Michigan ACLU.

“The bill serves no other purpose than to single out a small minority of people and deprive them of critical protections as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. We are prepared to challenge this law on behalf of Michigan families in the coming weeks,” Moss said.

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