Federal Court Continues Reprieve for Family Health Coverage for Gay and Lesbian Arizona State Employees

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"Today's decision by the Ninth Circuit means Arizona's lesbian and gay state employees will not suddenly find themselves without vital family health coverage, for as long as the decision stands."
September 6, 2011
Tara Borelli

"Our clients are simply seeking equal pay for equal work."

(San Francisco, September 6, 2011)—The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld an injunction that temporarily maintains family health coverage for gay and lesbian employees of the State of Arizona until a court issues a final decision in the case.

Lambda Legal represents seven 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 benefits that they rely on to safeguard their families' health—just as heterosexual workers do.

"Today's decision by the Ninth Circuit means Arizona's lesbian and gay state employees will not suddenly find themselves without vital family health coverage, for as long as the decision stands," said Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Tara Borelli, who argued the case before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in February. "Our clients are simply seeking equal pay for equal work. We're confident that principle will continue to prevail as the case advances."

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 the domestic partners of lesbian and gay state employees while retaining spousal benefits for heterosexual workers in a budget deal signed by Gov. Jan Brewer in 2009.

In today's opinion, Judge Schroeder wrote that "…plaintiffs had established a likelihood of success on the merits and that they were likely to suffer irreparable harm if the injunction did not issue."

District Court Judge John W. Sedwick last July granted Lambda Legal's request for a preliminary injunction to temporarily maintain domestic partner benefits for gay and lesbian Arizona State employees while the case proceeded in court. The judge also denied in part a motion to dismiss the case by State's Attorney Charles Grube, ordering that the case proceed on the merits of the plaintiffs' equal protection claim. The State of Arizona then appealed the preliminary injunction to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals—resulting in today's decision.

Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Tara Borelli argued the case, with Daniel C. Barr, Rhonda L. Barnes and Kirstin T. Eidenbach of the law firm of Perkins, Coie, Brown & Bain P.A. as co-counsel. The case is Diaz (formerly Collins) v. Brewer.

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Contact Info

Contact: Tom Warnke; 213-382-7600 ex 247;twarnke@lambdalegal.org

Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.

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