A Michigan judge ruled this week that public universities and governments can provide health insurance to the partners of gay employees without violating the state constitution.

The ruling sets aside a legal opinion issued this year by Republican Attorney General Mike Cox saying that the city of Kalamazoo could not provide benefits to gay partners.

Cox cited the constitutional amendment approved by voters last November that made the union between a man and a woman the only agreement recognized as a marriage “or similar union for any purpose.”

Twenty-one gay couples who work for Kalamazoo, universities and the state filed a joint lawsuit challenging Cox’s interpretation.

In Tuesday’s ruling, Ingham County Circuit Judge Joyce Draganchuk said the purpose of the amendment was to ban gay marriage and civil unions, not to keep public employers from offering benefits to gay employees.

Early Wednesday, a spokeswoman for Cox said he was reviewing the ruling and considering whether to appeal.

Jay Kaplan, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, urged Cox to not “waste” taxpayer dollars on an appeal.

Tuesday’s ruling could have an immediate impact on state employees.

Liz Boyd, a spokeswoman for Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm, said Tuesday the “legal cloud has been lifted” and the administration would ask the state Civil Service Commission to quickly approve domestic partner benefits.

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