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Arizona wants appeals panel to allow state to drop gay partners healthcare

Thursday, September 29, 2011
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Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said a federal appeals panel “got it wrong” and is again appealing a court ruling that same-sex partners of state government workers are entitled to the same health care benefits provided to opposite-sex couples.

On Sept. 6, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld a temporary block on a controversial 2009 state law that sought to eliminate health coverage for gay and lesbian domestic partners of Arizona state employees.

Jan Brewer

The three-member appeals panel said such a law would go against the long-standing constitutional right to equal protection, but now Brewer wants the Court to have a larger panel review the issue.

Legal papers submitted on the governor’s behalf contend that a three-judge panel of the same court got it wrong when it concluded that it is illegal discrimination to provide health care and other benefits to the partners of married workers while refusing to do the same for same-sex couples. Assistant Attorney General Paula Grube said the state is allowed to make such differentiation.

Grube also brushed aside as legally irrelevant that Arizona voters permanently locked gay employees out of getting around the ban after voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2008 limiting marriage to one man and one woman. In fact, she charged that the ruling of three-judge panel “attempts to indirectly invalidate Arizona’s marriage laws.”

The equal health coverage plan had been put in place in 2008 under former Gov. Janet Napolitano, now Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

But in a budget deal signed in 2009 by the current Governor, Jan Brewer, state lawmakers eliminated health coverage for the domestic partners of gay and lesbian state government employees, while retaining spousal benefits for heterosexual workers in a budget deal.

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