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Mich. ban on domestic partner benefits blocked

DETROIT  — A federal judge on Friday blocked Michigan’s ban on domestic partner benefits for employees who work in school districts and local governments.

U.S. District Judge David Lawson said plaintiffs who have lost benefits or been forced to buy expensive health insurance have made a “plausible claim” that the law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The decision came nearly a year after Lawson heard arguments in the lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

“The unavoidable conclusion is that Public Act 297 contains a discriminatory classification on the basis of sexual orientation,” Lawson said, referring to gays and lesbians as he ordered an injunction.

The law, passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Snyder, ended insurance for people whose domestic partners work for certain public employers.

A handful of school districts had offered the benefits before the law took effect in 2012, along with Ingham and Washtenaw counties and the cities of Ann Arbor, East Lansing and Kalamazoo, according to the ACLU.

Supporters of the law say it saves tax dollars and follows the spirit of a statewide referendum in 2004 in which 58 percent of voters defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

The law exempts colleges and universities, as well as most state government workers whose benefits are set by the Michigan Civil Service Commission.

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