Contrasting Michigan policy, Toledo mayor considers domestic partner benefits

Apr 27, 2012

Late last year, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a controversial law barring many live-in partners of state employees from receiving government health benefits. Snyder and some members of the state legislature cited cost as the primary reason behind the ban. But critics of the law, including the ACLU of Michigan, said the law unfairly targeted same-sex couples.

Now, just south of the border, things might be moving in the opposite direction.

According to a story in the Toledo Blade, the city's Mayor Mike Bell is planning to bring legislation concerning domestic partner benefits before the city council. The measure would give Toledo city employees the opportunity to extend their health care benefits to cover their live-in partners, provided couples sign up for the city's Domestic Partner Registry.

More from the Blade:

Both heterosexual and same-sex couples would be eligible for benefits under the proposed law...

"What we're trying to do is bring our city, form the standpoint of human resources and affirmative-action policies, in line with what's happening nationally," Mayor Bell said. "We're not the first train pulling out of the station here, we're actually in a way trying to catch up with the policies that make companies and cities competitive in the state of Ohio."

Other cities, including Cleveland and Columbus, along with Lucas County, the University of Toledo, Owens Corning, and the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce, offer benefits to domestic partners of employees, according to information provided by the mayor's office.

But, the Blade reports, some council members are already voicing misgivings about the policy:

George Sarantou said he has many questions about the proposed law and is concerned it could be too costly for a city that has struggled financially in recent years.

"Cost is always a factor when you're dealing with a budget," Councilman Sarantou said...

Councilman Rob Ludeman, meanwhile, expressed both financial and moral concerns about the proposed law. During his last term, Mr. Ludeman was one of two councilmen who voted against the Domestic Partner Registry.

"A lot of it was my own religious beliefs, but I think I represented a conservative constituency who were opposed to it, gay and straight people," Mr. Ludeman said.

Mayor Bell told the Blade that he doesn't believe the benefits will present any financial strain and said it comes down to fairness:

"When you're the mayor, you represent everybody," the mayor said. "Inside the city we have a lot of different lifestyles. All I'm trying to do is be fair to everybody. ... I'm trying to adjust our polices to the obvious that's in front of us right now at this particular time in history."

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom