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Federal Appeals Court Protects Same-Sex Benefits for AZ Government Workers

On Tuesday, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals supported a district court ruling blocking a law eliminating family insurance benefits for same sex partners of Arizona government workers. This ruling comes after a long court battle, which started in September 2009 when Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) signed a law repealing same sex partner benefits that were granted by the state in 2008. Lesbian and gay government workers immediately filed a lawsuit, defended by Lambda Legal Defense, stating that the law infringed on their constitutional rights.

Judge Mary Schroeder, one of the three judges on the appeals court panel, stated, “When a state chooses to provide such benefits, it may not do so in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner that adversely affects particular groups that may be unpopular.”

Joe Solomonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), praised the decision, saying that “Governor Brewer’s decision to take health care and insurance benefits away from state employees in same-sex relationships has been recognized for what it is: unconstitutional.” According to HRC, the ruling has temporarily protected benefits for approximately 800 state and university employees. The case will continue into trial court.

Associated Press 9/6/11; CBS 5 KPHO 9/6/11; Human Rights Campaign Press Release 9/6/11