Arizona law to deny gay benefits blocked

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"A federal judge has blocked Arizona from denying family health insurance to employees' same-sex partners, saying the state violated the equal-protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

"...The bill, which was signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer in September, amended the definition of 'dependent' under state law to mean either a child or 'a spouse under the laws of this state.' That change prevented the partners of gay and lesbians, who are legally unable to marry, from receiving benefits.

"...Lambda Legal, an advocacy group based in New York, filed a federal lawsuit in Phoenix last year on behalf of 10 state employees protesting the end of their benefits.

"'This injunction removes the sword that's been hanging over the heads of hundreds of state workers and their families,' Tara Borelli, a Lambda Legal staff attorney, said in a statement. 'We're pleased Judge Sedwick has recognized that this is a matter of equal pay for equal work, and that eliminating benefits for Arizona's gay and lesbian state employees would hurt real families.'"