Michigan One Signature Away from Domestic Partner Benefits Ban

By: Sherene Tagharobi Email
By: Sherene Tagharobi Email

"Elaine and I have been together a little over 17 years," Nancy English said, talking about her relationship with her domestic partner.

Elaine is a Lansing Community College professor, and as her domestic partner, Nancy English gets health care benefits. She's already had two knee replacements.

"To help pay for prescriptions and for me to go to the doctor and God forbid another surgery," she said.

Those are all things she couldn't afford without coverage. But this week lawmakers passed bills to ban public entities from offering domestic partner health care benefits.

"They want us to pay taxes for heterosexual couples, people who are married, who get benefits, and we do, but they don't want to pay for ours," said English, saying the measures are unfair.

Michigan's constitution gives public colleges and universities policy-making autonomy, so the bills, if signed, would likely be challenged. In any case the ban would apply to local school districts and municipalities, as well as some state employees.

"Not only is this an equal treatment issue, it's also an issue of local control," said East Lansing Mayor Pro Tem Nathan Triplett.

Triplett calls the bills a direct attack on LGBT families.

"I think this legislation very clearly puts a sign on the border of Michigan that says some families aren't welcome here. That's not good for Michigan, and it's not good for East Lansing," he said.

"Universities need to be able to compete with the world for the best universities, state and local governments need to compete for the best employees they can get regardless of their sexual orientation or whether they decided to get married," said Mary Pollock, president of the ACLU Lansing branch.

Right now, two East Lansing employees receive domestic partner benefits, but more want in.

We also talked to Representative Dave Agema, the Republican sponsor of the house bills. He says the legislation would apply to public universities and colleges, and maintains that's not unconstitutional. He says the measures are needed to control escalating costs of health care.


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