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Arizona Will Bar Health Coverage for|Partners of Homosexual State Workers

PHOENIX (CN) - A new Arizona law unconstitutionally killed domestic-partner health insurance benefits for homosexual state employees, a gay rights group claims in Federal Court. Lambda Legal Defense says Arizona House Bill 2013 eliminates family coverage for lesbian and gay state workers by limiting coverage to spouses.

Lambda wants Gov. Jan Brewer and the Department of Administration and Personnel Board enjoined from enforcing HB 2013 because it violates the 14th Amendment by denying the 10 plaintiffs "equal compensation for equal work" and "discriminatorily inflicts" financial burdens and health problems.

Gov. Brewer signed the bill on Sept. 4 though in 2008 the state adopted a regulation permitting the benefits.

Same-sex couples are not permitted to marry in Arizona, and if married in another state, HB 2013 requires that they be treated as unmarried.

Elimination of domestic partner health benefits will affect about 800 employees and will save $3.3 million of the state's annual $650 million health care budget, according to the complaint.

State employees with a committed same-sex life partner comprise a small fraction of the 800 employees, since not all employees in same-sex relationships enroll for domestic partner benefits.

Lambda says the District of Columbia and at least 18 states offer family coverage to homosexual state employees. It claims that more than 80 percent of "Fortune 100 companies offer family coverage to lesbian and gay employees, as do a majority of the Fortune 500 companies."

Public and private employers that offer family coverage to all employees are able to attract "more talented and highly skilled employees, decrease turnover, and improve employee morale and productivity," the complaint states.

Coverage will be terminated for the state's homosexual employees on Oct. 1, 2010.

The plaintiffs include a senior Highway Patrol officer, a peace officer, a visiting professor at Arizona State University, a marketing coordinator at Northern Arizona University and six University of Arizona employees.

They are represented by Jennifer C. Pizer and Tara L. Borelli with the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund of Los Angeles.


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