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Attorneys for 21 gay couples and Gov. Jennifer Granholm asked a judge Tuesday to rule that Michigan’s constitution does not prevent governments and universities from providing health insurance and other benefits to partners of gay employees. Circuit Court Judge Joyce Draganchuk heard arguments centering on a constitutional amendment approved by voters last year. It made the union between a man and a woman the only agreement recognized as a marriage “or similar union for any purpose.” Republican Attorney General Mike Cox issued a legal opinion in March saying those six words bar public employers from offering domestic partner benefits in future contracts. But an attorney for the couples said Tuesday that health insurance is simply a benefit of employment and argued that granting it in no way recognizes a union similar to marriage. Deborah Labelle also said backers of the ballot proposal consistently claimed it was only about marriage — not benefits. “This goes way beyond the stated purpose of the amendment � and far beyond the drafters’ and voters’ intent,” she said of Cox’s interpretation. Eric Restuccia, an attorney representing Cox, said the amendment’s wording is plain and accused Granholm and the couples of ignoring the “for any purpose” wording. In March, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan sued on behalf of the 21 couples, who either receive health coverage from public employers or expected to get it. The Granholm administration has decided not to offer state employees same-sex benefits, included in new labor contracts, until a court rules on their legality. Kalamazoo has announced it will eliminate same-sex benefits as of Jan. 1. The judge did not indicate when she would rule. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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