Politics
6:58 am
Wed March 23, 2011

State House fails to reject domestic partner benefits

The State House failed to reject the Michigan Civil Service Commission's decision to allow state employees to enjoy domestic partner benefits.

The benefits, originally negotiated between the Granholm administration and about 70% of the public employee unions, are scheduled to go into effect October 1st. The benefits are extended to unmarried partners (gay or heterosexual) and their dependents who have lived together for more than one year.

Michigan Public Radio's Laura Weber reported on yesterday's vote in the State House:

Republicans needed a two-thirds majority to reverse the decision from the Civil Service Commission, but they couldn’t find enough votes from Democrats.

Republican Representative Tom McMillon said the Legislature has an obligation to uphold the wishes of voters who disallowed same-sex marriages in 2004.

 "The voters of the state of Michigan decided to put in our constitution that marriage is between one man and one woman. Soon thereafter a few colleges who were giving same-sex benefits went to court and they begged the court to allow them to continue giving same-sex benefits because in order to not do that and actually give them to any live in couples would be cost prohibitive."

Republicans say adding same-sex partners to public employee benefits could cost the state more than $11 million.

Democratic state Representative Jeff Irwin says he does not know which numbers to believe.

“There’s been a lot of talk about the money. I just heard an $11 million figure, I’ve heard a $5 million figure, I’ve heard an $8 million figure, I’ve heard estimates all over the map. But the point I want to make, if I had the attention of the body, is this is not about money.”

Irwin says the benefits package was promised to public employees years ago, and the state needs to make good on the promise.

Republicans leaders say they expect to bring to the question back up for another vote before the Legislature begins its spring break at the end of this week.

Weber reports Republicans are expected to try to reject the benefits again later this week. To do so, they'll have to sway more democrats in the State House.

The Michigan Messenger reports the Michigan House has until April 18th to pass a resolution rejecting the benefits, "if it is not passed by then, the window is closed and the ruling goes into effect."