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Posted on Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 9:30 a.m.

Ann Arbor goes on record opposing state ban on domestic partner benefits

By Ryan J. Stanton

The Ann Arbor City Council went on record Monday night opposing a Republican-backed effort at the state level to outlaw domestic partner benefits for public employees in Michigan.

The council offered a unanimous vote in favor of a resolution sponsored by Council Member Sandi Smith, who is openly gay. It expresses the city's opposition to two pieces of legislation approved by the state House last week in a 64-44 vote along party lines.

House Bill 4770 prohibits public employers from providing health benefits to domestic partners of public employees, while HB 4771 excludes those benefits as a subject of collective bargaining. The city of Ann Arbor offers domestic partner benefits to its employees, as does the University of Michigan and other governmental entities.


Ann Arbor City Council Member Sandi Smith, D-1st Ward, sponsored Monday's resolution opposing a state ban on domestic partner benefits for public employees.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Many Democrats are calling the bills discriminatory and overreaching, while many Republicans argue enacting such a ban is a matter of fiscal responsibility and also that it reflects the will of Michigan voters who decided in 2004 to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

The council's resolution reaffirms Ann Arbor's commitment to a diverse and accepting culture and asks Gov. Rick Snyder not to sign "legislation that codifies such discrimination."

"The city of Ann Arbor has always been a leader in human rights," reads the resolution, noting Ann Arbor was the first city in Michigan to establish a non-discrimination ordinance and was the first to add protection for sexual orientation.

The resolution notes that employees at dozens of Michigan corporations can extend benefits to partners of either gender, including at Chrysler, Dow Chemical, DTE Energy, Ford, General Motors, Guardian Industries, Kellogg Co., Steelcase, TRW Automotive and Whirlpool.

Likewise, employees at dozens of national corporations with a presence in Michigan also offer such benefits, including AT&T, Best Buy, Comcast, Delta Airlines, General Electric, Google, Kroger, JC Penney, Macy's, Marriott, Sears, Target, Toyota and Verizon.

The resolution notes many public entities also provide health care benefits for domestic partners of either gender, including the state of Michigan, at least 10 public universities, at least five city and county governments and numerous public school districts.

Extending health care benefits eligibility to domestic partners is "crucial to attracting and keeping talent," the resolution states. It concludes by saying Ann Arbor, U-M, the state and other public employers in Michigan must be able to compete with the private sector and with public employers in other states to attract the best and brightest talent to their workforces.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.



Sat, Sep 24, 2011 : 6:12 p.m.

... of course.... How laughably Ann Arbor.... It's hard to defend such self-justified decisions.


Wed, Sep 21, 2011 : 8:28 p.m.

What Charlie said!


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 6:17 p.m.

Thanks to the city council for addressing an issue that certainly is relevant to the city as it would affect both it and UM, etc. It has implications on city collective bargaining, city benefit plan design and administration, policy issues, etc. Furthermore, there are many questions over the legality of this House action: UM has constitutional authorities granted to it that this bill seems to restrict. It seems guaranteed to cause litigation if passed. Cities and other municipalities also have some constitutional local control provisions that may be infringed upon by the bill, also opening up potential litigation. The Governor correctly vetoed similar language in the State's budget bill earlier this year as being unconstitutional, so let's hope he stays the course and and refuses to sign this discriminatory and overreaching bill.


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 6:04 p.m.

Do they currently provide the same benefits for the non married opposite-sex as they do for non married same-sex?

Long Time No See

Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 4:22 a.m.

Sorry, I meant that "Providing benefits to public employees based on domestic partnership" is illegal.

Long Time No See

Thu, Sep 22, 2011 : 4:21 a.m.

Providing benefits based on domestic partnership is currently illegal in the state of Michigan. A quick Google search found this summary: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> It's my understanding that to avoid violating the law, the university offers benefits to &quot;adult dependents&quot;: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> I assume the city does the same (otherwise, it seems they would be violating state law). Eligibility for benefits in this case has nothing to do with being the same sex as the adult dependent. Also, the type of relationship between the dependent and the employee is irrelevant. It just so happens that domestic partners often meet the &quot;other qualified adult&quot; requirements.


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 7:01 p.m.

I'm curious about the city of Ann Arbor though. I can completely understand being upset about domestic partner benefits being removed but still personally find it unfair if same-sex couples can receive benefits that opposite sex couples do not. Just legalize same-sex marriage and limit benefits to legally married couples across the board. problem solved.


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 6:18 p.m.

Yes they do, at least at UM.

Linda Diane Feldt

Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 5:39 p.m.

Opposing this regressive piece of legislation is very relevant to Ann Arbor. It affects the ability of the UM to attract and retain faculty and staff, it affects the business climate of Michigan as a whole (which Ann Arbor is a part of) and it will directly and negatively affect people living and working in Ann Arbor. These are people and families, kids and caring partners, who will be denied benefits that they currently have. And need. I find it highly relevant, and am glad that our city council can indeed multi-task and speak out against a discriminatory piece of legislation that affects the people who elected them, while also focusing on a myriad of more local issues. People I love and care about will be hurt by this legislation. I'm in favor of people speaking out against it from many different forums. People I love and care about have had better lives - and access to life saving care - because their partner was able to receive health care through the UM, the AAPS, and other institutions. To seek to deny partner and family benefits is cruel and profoundly short sighted. I'm single and self employed. I know how difficult it is to not have health care benefits affordable and easily available. You want to put hundreds or thousands of Michigan adults and children through that struggle? We need to speak out against this measure, and I'm glad our city council has done so.

dading dont delete me bro

Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 4:59 p.m.

let me go on record and say that i just lost my lunch. get to work city council


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 4:21 p.m.



Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 4:10 p.m.

I find it hard to believe that Ann Arbor respects diversity when ALL OF THE CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS are from the same party? Are they really leaders in Human Rights, If you do not have the same opinions as them you are called dumb, racist, homophobe, TEA BAGGER, etc &quot;The city of Ann Arbor has always been a leader in human rights,&quot; Maybe in their own mind!


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 3:52 p.m.

LOL! I have nothing more to add.

Jack Eaton

Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 2:55 p.m.

I applaud the Council's decision to speak out on this issue. The State has many more and much larger problems than the City. A state-wide prohibition on partner benefits does nothing to address the State's problems. Conversely, the City has decided that this issue is a matter of fairness and a matter of competitiveness. Being able to attract the very best talent often depends on having a diverse staff. If the City is prohibited from offering partner benefits it will not attract those applicant who would use those benefits or those who want to work in a diverse workplace. We are at one of those points in history where we can either support regressive thinking on par with the belief that the sun rotates around a flat earth or we can recognize the inherent silliness of a limited view of human partnerships. Let's hope that the State legislature turns its attention to real problems and lets local governments decide for themselves whether to offer partner benefits.


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 2:38 p.m.

When is the next election for city council, it may be sooner than some of these leeches think.

David Briegel

Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 2:36 p.m.

Who can we find to discriminate against next? Who will we next declare to be inferior to us? Good Job City Council!

Roy Munson

Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 2:20 p.m.

Attention city council: This city has a lot of problems that you are doing nothing about. Feel free to go on all of your crusades outside the city once you have done the job that people have elected you to do right here.


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 6:43 p.m.

Unlike some of the other extra-local issues that city council has, or been asked to, address ( which have zero local relevance and on which council actions would have zero impact ) this one impacts plenty of local people and it's perfectly appropriate that council has gone on record in opposition to a nasty , mean-spirited and anti-constructive bit of legislation .


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 2:07 p.m.

I'm waiting to hear what the Phoenix City Council resolution on this matter says before I make up my mind.

Charlie Brown's Ghost

Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 2:04 p.m.

Stick to your jobs. It's not City Council's place to concern themselves with anything outside of the operation of the City of Ann Arbor. Individual council members can have their own personal opinions it, of course, but as a body they have no business getting involved in this, the war in Iraq, or a law enacted by the State of Arizona That's not what we put them in office for. Get back to work. On second thought, after seeing what they've done with public art, the underground parking structure, and new parking garage for the U of M, the new misguided pedestrian law, and police and fire departments, I think &quot;Don't get back to work&quot; would be better.

Charlie Brown's Ghost

Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 3:17 p.m.

Maybe, Ryan, but from the new pedestrian law, which contradicts state law, we see that Ann Arbor isn't concerned about state law.

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 3:07 p.m.

@Charlie - For the record, this legislation directly impacts the city of Ann Arbor.


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 2:30 p.m.

Sorry for the typos, a bit heated when it comes to this topic.


Tue, Sep 20, 2011 : 2:27 p.m.

Oh yes they do. Cause this is not where it is going to end. Someone needs to stop the regressives from chasing most of the next generation from exiting the state. If the GOP was actual concerned about fiscal management they would eliminate spousal supported benefits completely. Why is a married employee entitled to receive additional compensation then a single employee. This is clearly discrimination based on marital status.