Health insurance should not be given to partners of gay workers, according to the state attorney in Michigan.

Republican Attorney General Mike Cox was in court yesterday arguing that university and local government policies offering health insurance to gay partners violated a 2004 amendment to the Michigan constitution concerning marriage, by putting domestic partnerships on an equal par.

He said the amendment limits these benefits to those who are married as a man and a woman.

But a lawyer for gay employees, Deborah LaBelle of civil rights group, the American Civil Liberties Union said: “Health benefits are simply not a benefit of marriage.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with marriage.”

Last year an Ingham County judge sided with gay couples when they sued Mr Cox for trying to use the amendment to bar domestic partner benefits in future contracts.

Mr Cox’s lawyer, Eric Restuccia, said nothing would stop employers offering benefits to partners, but they should also be given to relatives.

Twenty-one gay couples sued last year after Cox issued an opinion interpreting the amendment as barring domestic partner benefits in future contracts.