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Mich. Gov. Signs Law That Prohibits Partner Benefits for Unmarried Public Employees

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Saturday Dec 24, 2011
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The HB 4770 law was recently signed by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R), which bans unmarried public employees from extending benefits to their partners, reported Pride Source in a Dec. 22 article.

Some believed that Snyder would not sign the legislation as he asked the legislature to take back the bill and change it to prohibit the law from stopping universities from providing similar benefits. The politician claims that the state cannot monitor universities due to constitutional rights.

"In a signing letter to the legislature, Snyder reiterated the fact that higher education institutions would not be included in H.B. 4770 as the constitutional autonomy of universities has been reviewed and affirmed many times by the courts since the adoption of the 1963 Michigan Constitution," Snyder said in a press release.

"Members of classified state civil service are also not covered by the terms of H.B. 4770 as the constitution gives the Michigan Civil Service Commission responsibility for setting rates of compensation and regulating all conditions of employment in the classified service."

Kary Moss, executive director of the Michigan ACLU was critical of Snyder’s decision.

"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," she said.

Policy director at Equality Michigan, Emily Dievendorf, was also not pleased with the new legislation.

"Gov. Snyder’s support for these bills is appalling. Today, the Governor told unmarried public employees that they could 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 an attractive business climate, and these bills fly in the face of those goals."

In 2007, the City of Kalamazoo stopped providing health insurance benefits to partners of gay workers. The city became the state’s first public employer to retract health care benefits since gay marriage was banned in 2004, the Associated Press reported.

In Nov. 2009, however, citizens voted for an ordinance that extended anti-discrimination protections to the LGBT community, MLive reported in a Nov. 04 article.

"There’s a lot of people who will wake up and breathe easier tomorrow knowing they won’t be fired or kicked out of their homes for being gay, lesbian or transgender," said Jon Hoadley, campaign manager One Kalamazoo, the pro-ordinance campaign committee. "It was astounding the overwhelming support that we had. Kalamazoo said this is what it wants."

Even though there are anti-discrimination laws in Michigan, it didn’t stop a former assistant state attorney general from harassing a gay University of Michigan student.

Andrew Shrivell, 30, was fired after being accused of harassing the university’s gay student assembly president, the AP reported in a Jan. 23 article.

In a report by the attorney general’s office, it was stated that Shrivell was warned in Feb. 2010 about using a homophobic epithet in an email. The warning was issued two months before he started a blog and called the student assembly president a racist and with a "radical homosexual agenda."

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