Let’s hear it for the Arizona universities employees and other state employees who are participating in a federal lawsuit to maintain domestic partner health insurance benefits, charging that Governor Brewer’s mean-spirited bill (House Bill 2013) to remove these benefits is discriminatory. They won the right to a hearing and an injunction from stopping the insurance in U.S. District Court, and the case will be heard by the Ninth District Court of Appeals.
The best part? The hearing is being held on February 14th: Valentine’s Day! Now that is a great way to celebrate love and commitment!
In finding for the plaintiffs, the District Judge cited equal protection claims, writing, “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.”
When the state tried to argue that maintaining these benefits would cost others the denial of important services because of a budget shortfall, the judge rejected the argument, writing, “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.”
Lambda Legal is representing the plaintiffs in this case, which they see as very important on a national scale for determining the rights of same-sex couples. Kudos to these academics who are stepping into the limelight and taking a stand for civil rights of same-sex couples.