Republicans who control the Michigan House on Thursday started another attempt to block the offering of taxpayer-paid health insurance to domestic partners living with public employees.
The House passed legislation aimed at prohibiting public employers from extending the benefits to unmarried partners of employees-- same sex or opposite sex -- by a 64-44, mostly party line vote. The measure next goes to the Republican-led Senate.
It's unclear how much impact the legislation would have if it were to become law. The proposal is written to apply to "all public employers to the greatest extent consistent with constitutionally allocated powers."
Democrats who opposed the legislation say it is unconstitutional and would be challenged in court. They say public universities have the constitutional authority to determine their own policies, and that the Michigan Civil Service Commission has the power to make decisions about what kinds of benefits are offered to many state employees.
The civil service commission voted early this year to allow domestic partner benefits for some state employees starting in October. Republicans tried to overturn the decision but couldn't get the two-thirds majority vote needed in the House.
Republicans supporting the bills approved Thursday say they reflect the will of Michigan voters who decided in 2004 to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Republicans say some public employers have gotten around the implications of that constitutional amendment by extending the health care benefits to domestic partners of the opposite sex, along with same-sex partners.