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Federal court certifies Ariz. same-sex partners benefits case as class action

Saturday, December 28, 2013
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PHOENIX, Ariz. — The U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona has certified as a class action Lambda Legal’s lawsuit on behalf of lesbian and gay Arizona state employees fighting a move by the Arizona Legislature to eliminate health care coverage for their families.

ArizonaThe plaintiffs in the suit are challenging a move by the Arizona Legislature to eliminate an equal health coverage plan put in place in 2008 under former Governor Janet Napolitano.

Arizona lawmakers subsequently eliminated health coverage for domestic partners of state employees while retaining access to spousal benefits for heterosexual workers in a budget deal signed by Governor Jan Brewer in 2009.

Lambda Legal filed suit on behalf of the state employees and their families, claiming that because Arizona’s constitution prohibits same-sex marriage, same-sex couples have no way to obtain state benefits.

U.S. District Court Judge John W. Sedwick in July 2010 granted Lambda Legal’s request for a preliminary injunction to maintain domestic partner coverage for lesbian and gay Arizona State employees while the case proceeded in court.

The judge also denied a motion to dismiss the case by Arizona State officials, ordering that the case proceed on the merits of the plaintiffs’ equal protection claim. Arizona State officials then appealed the injunction to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which maintained the injunction and denied a subsequent motion seeking an en banc rehearing.

The State then filed a petition for certiorari seeking Supreme Court review, which was denied in June 2013.

“We are pleased that the Court has certified this case as a class action, and appreciate that the State of Arizona supported this petition,” said Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Tara Borelli.

“With this certification, all lesbian and gay state employees who are currently or will become eligible for family health coverage for a committed same-sex partner or their partner’s dependents have become part of the fight against the State’s discriminatory effort to strip them of their vital family health insurance coverage,” said Borelli.

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