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Gov. Snyder Signs Domestic Partner Benefits Ban

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LANSING (AP)- Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday signed legislation that blocks taxpayer-paid health insurance from being offered to domestic partners living with some public employees.

But the Republican said the measure doesn’t apply to public universities or most state employees.

The law affecting domestic partner benefits might end up in court, with opponents trying to get it tossed out while supporters argue Snyder is underestimating its scope.

Some Republican lawmakers disputed whether the ban, recently passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature, would apply to public universities. Snyder said higher education institutions won’t be covered.by the new law because public universities have constitutional autonomy.

Snyder also said members of the classified state civil service, which includes union-represented state workers and most other state employees, also are exempt from the measure. The governor said the Michigan Civil Service Commission has constitutional responsibility for setting rates of compensation and benefits for those workers.

That means the new ban would affect mostly local governments and public schools in Michigan. The ban will apply to health insurance and other fringe benefits for unmarried partners of the employees, whether they’re of the opposite or the same sex.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan has vowed to challenge the constitutionality of the law on behalf of families who will lose their health protections.

“The decision to take health care benefits away from families just in time for the holidays is mean-spirited and cruel,” Kary Moss, the ACLU of Michigan’s executive director, said in a statement.

The law has immediate effect, but it wouldn’t affect union-represented workers until their current collective bargaining agreements expire.

Supporters of the bill say it’s designed to save governments money on health benefits and to reflect the will of Michigan voters who decided in 2004 to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

The American Family Association of Michigan commended Snyder for signing the legislation, but said the ban also should apply to public universities. The conservative group urged lawmakers to seek an attorney general’s opinion on whether the ban applies to universities, and said the issue likely will wind up before the Michigan Supreme Court.

The legislation is House Bill 4770.

© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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