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Michigan City to Study Domestic Partner Benefits Law

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KALAMAZOO, Mich. – City commissioners in Kalamazoo were expected to look at options to help municipal workers under a new state law that blocks taxpayer-paid health insurance to domestic partners of some public employees.

Kalamazoo, about 50 miles south of Grand Rapids in southwest Michigan, has eight employees who receive domestic partner benefits which are now blocked under legislation signed earlier this week by Gov. Rick Snyder.

“The administrative staff has to look at the law and what we have to do to comply,” Mayor Bobby Hopewell told the Kalamazoo Gazette for a story on Saturday.

“We will continue to have discussions about other options so that we are taking care of our employees in the best way possible,” Hopewell said.

Snyder signed the legislation last Thursday. It prevents taxpayer-paid health insurance from being offered to domestic partners living with some public employees.

The new ban would affect mostly local governments and public schools in Michigan, and 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 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 Civil Liberties Union of Michigan has vowed to challenge the constitutionality of the law on behalf of families who will lose their health protections.

Kalamazoo Commissioners on Monday approved a resolution asking Snyder not to sign the bill. The city adopted a domestic partner policy in 2000 for its employees. That policy has been amended to keep in step with state law.

Hopewell has questioned the logic behind the new law and said it will work against the governor’s plans to create jobs and attract talented workers.

“Great talent comes with much diversity,” Hopewell said. “We have to embrace that if we want to be a state that’s competitive.”

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