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ACLU Challenges Michigan Ban On Domestic Partner Benefits

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The American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit against Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder over a law banning domestic partner benefits in the state. The legislation, passed in December, prevents unmarried partners of state employees from receiving health care coverage.

A federal appeals court recently ruled against a similar law in Arizona.

ACLU Michigan filed the lawsuit on behalf of four couples. They charge the law denies same-sex couples their constitutional right to equal protection under the law by denying them coverage available to heterosexual married couples.

An amendment to the state constitution passed in 2004 forbids the marriage of same-sex couples in Michigan. The mandate applies to state, county, city and school employees.

The suit also notes that the legislation singles out individuals in domestic partnerships, while allowing for the coverage of other family members such as parents, siblings, uncles and cousins.

Gov. Snyder vetoed a similar bill that would have enacted the same ban for university employees because of concerns it would violate the state constitution's guarantees of public university self-governance.

In a statement, the governor's office called the ban a cost-cutting measure to control "the spiraling costs of health care and other post-retirement benefits."

Kary L. Moss, executive director of ACLU Michigan, challenged Snyder's logic in a statement to the press.

"Although justified by the governor as a cost-cutting measure, the numbers don't hold up," he said. "The reality is that the legislation was intended to disenfranchise LGBT families."

A recent report from the non-partisan Senate Fiscal Agency estimated the state treasury could have a more than $1 billion surplus for the most recent fiscal year.

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