By David Eggert, Associated Press
LANSING (AP) – Same-sex domestic partners of state employees will continue to qualify for health insurance after the Michigan Supreme Court decided not to hear an appeal filed by the state.
In a short order released Thursday and dated Wednesday, justices unanimously said they were not persuaded they should review the case.
Over the objections of Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, the state Civil Service Commission in 2011 voted to have the state health insurance plan cover non-family members who have lived continuously with state workers for at least a year. GOP Attorney General Bill Schuette sued, saying the move was unconstitutional.
In January, a divided state appeals court upheld an Ingham County judge in ruling that the policy does not conflict with Michigan’s 2004 gay marriage ban that also prohibits the recognition of “similar” unions. The appeals court said it is not the place of courts to second-guess the wisdom of state action, and it is clear state workers can share benefits with a wide variety of other people besides only a gay partner.
Schuette unsuccessfully appealed to the Republican-controlled high court.
“We are disappointed with the ruling because Gov. Snyder is correct that expanding state benefits costs the taxpayers millions when they can least afford it,” Schuette spokeswoman Joy Yearout said in a statement.
Michigan has 124 state employees whose health insurance covers live-in partners, said Matt Fedorchuk, acting deputy state personnel director. He said it is costing the state an extra $690,000 a year to provide the coverage.
Since voters approved the gay marriage ban, many public employers no longer specifically acknowledge domestic partnerships but have made sure “other qualified adults” – including gay partners – are still eligible for health care.
Later in 2011, Snyder signed a law blocking taxpayer-paid health benefits from being offered to domestic partners living with public employees. The measure, which is being challenged in federal court, does not apply to public universities or many state employees.
The Civil Service Commission has constitutional responsibility for setting rates of compensation and benefits for nearly 49,000 state workers.
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