Status of Domestic-Partner Benefits in Michigan

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in Employee Benefits Program,Employment Law,Human Resources

Q. In November 2006, Michigan passed a constitutional amendment that prohibits the state from recognizing non-marital unions. We have employees who are seeking health insurance benefits for their domestic partners, who are of the same sex. Does the Michigan constitution preclude us from agreeing to provide health insurance for our employees and their domestic partners? —L.S.

A. This issue is in the courts. The constitutionality of the Michigan amendment is being challenged, as well as its meaning. However, as of right now, public employers appear to be precluded from extending benefits to non-marital couples. This would include not only homosexual relationships but also opposite-sex couples who are not married.

The amendment, however, would not seem to bar a private employer from extending benefits to unmarried (including same-sex) couples. If you are considering benefits for “nontraditional” couples or families, be careful to establish criteria to define those who would qualify. 

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