Arizona Governor Loses Latest Bid to Strip Benefits from Lesbian and Gay State Employees
The U.S. Supreme Court today denied a request by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to review a U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that maintains family health coverage for lesbian and gay State employees while the case seeking to permanently preserve the benefits works its way through the court system.
Also today, the Supreme Court denied a request to review a U.S. District Court ruling in a case Lambda Legal brought on behalf of eight couples challenging Nevada's law banning marriage for same-sex couples. Lambda Legal has appealed the District Court ruling against its clients to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, but proponents of the Nevada law had sought U.S. Supreme Court review before the case was considered by the Ninth Circuit.
In Arizona, Lambda Legal represents several lesbian and gay state employees – including from the State Department of Game and Fish and state universities – who are challenging a move by the Arizona Legislature to eliminate the equal health care coverage that they rely on to safeguard their families' health.
"Lesbian and gay employees of the state of Arizona can now rest assured that their vital family health insurance will not be stripped away while they fight the State's discriminatory effort to eliminate that coverage," said Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Tara Borelli. "With the preliminary injunction now left in place, we can proceed to the resolution of the case."
"Arizona has tried everything it can to eliminate this coverage," Borelli said, "but it has no more cards to play in this round. It's time to go back to the trial court so that we can get a final ruling to assure these employees that they will not be denied the equal pay for equal work they deserve."
The equal health coverage plan had been put in place in 2008 under former Governor Janet Napolitano, now Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. 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.
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 declined Arizona State officials' request to dismiss the case, 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.
Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Tara Borelli argued the case, with Daniel C. Barr and Kirstin T. Eidenbach of the law firm of Perkins Coie LLP as co-counsel.