Michigan Governor Bans Domestic Partner Benefits for Public Employees

Here’s a dangerous precedent

Citing the 2004 Constitutional amendment barring recognition of same-sex relationships in the state of Michigan, GOP state Rep. Dave Agema pushed a bill eliminating health care coverage for domestic partners of public employees to Governor Rick Snyder’s desk. 

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According to Equality Michigan, many public entities provide coverage for domestic partners of employees, including University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University and 11 of the 12 other public universities, and at least eight cities, counties and school districts, including Ann Arbor and Kalamazoo.

Wow. This means no public employees. If this were Pennsylvania, that would include our family (Ledcat is a public employee.) It brings to mind the Tennessee law that banned anti-discrimination ordinances on a municipal level that were more inclusive than the statewide ordinance. That meant Nashville could not include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression as protected classes. Nice when state governments trample on locals to trample on the LGBTQ community.

The governor’s office says higher education institutions are exempt based on legal precendent, NOT language in the legisation. That’s sort of funny when you think about it.

Not really. Michigan is completely out of whack on this economic development issue, much less the human services/morality issue of providing equal access to health care to all employees.  Approximately 600 people utilize this benefit. Wow. That money alone will probably revitalize Detroit in a way that Eminem’s car commercial can’t. <snark>

University of Michigan faculty are threatening to leave en-masse. They know damn well this has the potential to make the University less attractive to attract new faculty and also adds to the ever going battle with Fortune 500 companies for bright minds.

Sliding backwards into legislated inequality is a bad, bad idea.  Pay attention PA residents.  This does not bode well for states swinging wildly to the right. Elected officials should be focused on job creation and improving our healthcare, not stripping CHILDREN (yes, the children of the domestic partners lose benefits if they aren’t biologically or legally related to the covered employee.) Sigh.

On a local level, when Rich Fitzgerald assumes his role as County Chief Executive, I hope with all of my heart that he will use his opening days to right this wrong and extend domestic partner benefits to his employees.  I’ve come to learn that the “unions have to ask” approach isn’t necessarily the case. We don’t have to put the onus on LGBTQ County Employees who work in semi-hostile environments to come out and expose themselves & their families to homophobia in order to get health insurance. The onus can instead rest on the shoulders of our leaders and elected officials who need to do the right thing for Allegheny County families.

Without hesitation, I categorize the entire Allegheny County government as a semi-hostile work environment. The reason? The lack of domestic partner benefits. The willingness of elected officials to let City employees at the 911 Center lose benefits when they merged. If the environment were healthy, supportive and affirming, someone would have asked their union to ask for the benefits.

The culture won’t change until the leadership changes.

This is particularly worrisome given the Michigan scenario. If the right is will to go to all this trouble to spread intolerance, what would happen in Pennsylvania if the second most powerful Democrat in the Commonwealth hasn’t been proactive in creating positive work environment?  If he’ll go to jail over my property assessment, I sure hope he’ll work with the public unions to extend domestic partner benefits to his employees.

Don’t busy your head in the sand.  We need you to pay attention to this issue.

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