Ralph v. City of New Orleans

Summary

In 1997, the City of New Orleans extended insurance benefits to same-sex partners of city employees. In 1993, the City Council had created a domestic partner registry that allows couples to make public commitment to care for and support each other. Both policies came under attack through a lawsuit brought by the antigay Alliance Defense Fund. At the city’s request, Lambda Legal joined a lawsuit to uphold these policies. According to the decision of the Louisiana Court of Appeal, Fourth District, the City did not exceed its authority because the “registry ordinance has no effect on the Civil Code articles relating to marriage, creates no obligations between the parties who choose to register, and provides neither an enforcement mechanism nor a cause of action for which redress may be sought in courts of this state.”

Context

In states lacking protections for same-sex couples, cities and counties sometimes fill the gap with local protections. The City of New Orleans, pursuant to authority under the Louisiana State Constitution provided such protections for its residents. Anti-gay groups have an interest in attacking these protections by arguing that cities and counties lack the authority to create such protections for same-sex couples.

Lambda Legal's Impact

A victory in this case means that domestic partner benefits and the city’s domestic partner registry are kept intact, providing important protections for same-sex couples. It also shows the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) and other antigay groups that their efforts to undermine protections for LGBT people will not prevail.

History

  • August 2003 Lambda Legal joins City of New Orleans in defending domestic partnership benefits for same-sex partners of city employees.
  • January 2005 Louisiana Appeals Court hears oral arguments in the case.
  • December 2005 Victory! Louisiana Appeals Court holds that taxpayers did not have standing to challenge the New Orleans domestic partnership benefits and upholds ruling safeguarding health insurance benefits for same-sex partners of city employees.
  • May 2006 Louisiana Supreme Court reverses the decision of the Louisiana Appeals Court, holding that taxpayers may challenge New Orleans domestic partnership benefits. The case is returned to the trial court for further proceedings.
  • September 2007 Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment on the merits is denied.
  • November 2007 Defendants' cross-motion for summary judgment is heard. The court takes the matter under advisement.
  • January 2008 Victory! Civil District Court for Orleans Parish rules that State Constitution does indeed grant the city of New Orleans the authority to offer health benefits to the domestic partners of city employees and maintain a registry of domestic partners for city residents.
  • March 2008 ADF appeals.
  • January 2009 Victory! Louisiana Court of Appeal, Fourth District, upholds the lower court ruling.

Case Information

Status: Closed
Outcome: Victory

Plaintiffs

Peter Sabi, Philip Centanni, Brian Barbieri, Howard Lees

Attorneys

Lambda Legal
Brian Chase, Kenneth D. Upton, Jr.