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The Michigan Supreme Court today upheld a lower court ruling that cities, counties, state universities, and other public employers cannot offer domestic partner benefits to their employees. The Court ruled that such benefits violate the state’s constitutional amendment that reads:”To secure and preserve the benefits of marriage for our society and for future generations of children, the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose.”Gay rights groups, labor groups, and everyone concerned with protecting diverse families now need to advocate employee benefit schemes that allow employees to name any one person with whom they live in a economically interdependent relationship and that person’s children as covered on their employee benefits. This is what Salt Lake City, Utah does in Ordinance Number 2.52.100. Their plan has already been upheld against a challenge that it violated the state’s laws “defending” marriage. That approach is actually better from a family policy perspective! It means that two people who are not romantic partners but decide to raise their children together, or two friends who pool their resources, can also qualify…as can unmarried straight and gay partners. Some Michigan entities have started this type of criteria, but they all have problems — requiring living together for too long before covering or excluding different-sex unmarried partners or relatives. I explore these issues at length in chapter eight of my book. Oh…and the people of Michigan need to repeal their offensive constitutional amendment!

–Nancy Polikoff

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