Federal judge overturns AZ ban on partner benefits for LGBT state-employees

Via Lamda Legal:

U.S. District Court Judge John W. Sedwick today granted Lambda Legal’s request for a preliminary injunction blocking the elimination of domestic partner benefits for gay and lesbian Arizona State employees. The judge also substantially denied a motion to dismiss the case by State’s Attorney Charles Grube, ordering that the case proceed on the merits. Lambda Legal represents ten state employees—including from the Arizona Highway Patrol, the State Department of Game and Fish, and state universities—who rely on health benefits from their employers to safeguard their families’ health, as heterosexual workers do.Sedwick’s ruling rejects claims by the state that the elimination of benefits will not harm the families of gay and lesbian employees because they may still be able to obtain insurance privately, through Medicaid or via the employers of the non-public employee partner. “Even assuming that is true,” Sedwick writes, citing a 9th Circuit Court ruling in Lambda Legal’s ongoing case In re Golinski, “the Ninth Circuit has recognized there is ‘an inherent inequality‘ in allowing some employees to participate fully in the State’s health plan, while expecting other employees to rely on other sources, such as private insurance or Medicaid. This ‘back of the bus‘ treatment relegates plaintiffs to a second-class status by imposing inferior workplace treatment on them, inflicting serious constitutional and dignitary harms that after-the-fact damages cannot adequately address.”

Sedwick also rejected the State’s claims that maintaining the same benefits for gay employees that their heterosexual co-workers will continue to receive would endanger other state services: “The State’s argument, which is not supported by any evidence, is speculative at best and discriminatory at worst. Contrary to the State’s suggestion, it is not equitable to lay the burden of the State’s budgetary shortfall on homosexual employees, any more than on any other distinct class, such as employees with green eyes or red hair.”

Writing same-sex couples out of state benefits programs was Gov. Jan Brewer’s very first act of office after being sworn in in 2009; might her other legacy have the same fate.


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