Lambda, Atlanta to Georgia Insurance Commish: Lift Ban on DP Health Benefits
(ATLANTA, September 21, 1999) -- Arguing on behalf of an openly lesbian Atlanta resident and city councilmember, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund hopes as early as Wednesday to help overturn an extraordinary statewide ban on health insurance coverage for domestic partners.
The ban, issued by Georgia Insurance Commissioner John W. Oxendine, prohibits health insurers in the state from selling policies with domestic partner coverage. Thousands of public and private companies around the country offer such coverage, but Oxendine's decree leaves many Georgia employers unable to participate in this trend.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Wendy L. Shoob will hear argument in City of Atlanta v. Oxendine on Wednesday, September 22 at 10 a.m. Lambda Staff Attorney Stephen R. Scarborough, Atlanta Councilmember Cathy Woolard, and Atlanta City Attorney Robin J. Shahar will be available after the hearing to talk to the media.
Scarborough will argue on behalf of Woolard, who wants to enroll her partner in the domestic partner benefits program that the city so far has been unable to implement for its employees.
"This wrongheaded ban interferes with the fair-minded efforts of employers across Georgia who want to improve the security of their workers' families," said Scarborough before the hearing. "It is illegal and offensive that Commissioner Oxendine should limit family health insurance because he disapproves of some lesbian, gay, and other unmarried workers," Scarborough said.
Oxendine has refused to approve any insurance policy providing for domestic partners since 1995, despite a 1997 ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court in City of Atlanta v. Morgan allowing the City to offer benefits to the partners of City workers who qualify as "dependents." Lambda participated as a friend of the court in that case.
Woolard, who represents Atlanta Council District 6, wants health coverage for her partner of 11 years, Karen Geney. "The health and well-being of families like mine are at stake. The City for years has been trying to do the right thing -- it's time for John Oxendine to get out of the way," Woolard said.
Represented by Lambda, Woolard joined the City's suit brought after the Oxendine rejected a domestic partner provision in a policy written by United HealthCare of Georgia. Across the country, more than 2,000 public and private employers like IBM, Microsoft, Time-Warner, United Airlines, and the City of Chicago already offer domestic partner benefits in order to promote fairness and help attract the most qualified workers.
WHAT: Argument in City of Atlanta v. Oxendine over the Georgia Insurance Commissioner's attempt to block domestic partner insurance benefits for Atlanta public employees
WHO: Staff Attorney Stephen R. Scarborough appears on behalf of Atlanta Councilmember Cathy Woolard; Scarborough, Woolard, and Atlanta City Attorney Robin J. Shahar will answer questions after the hearing
WHERE: Fulton County Superior Court, 136 Pryor Street, SW, Atlanta, Courtroom 7-E
WHEN: Wednesday, September 22, 10 a.m.
Contact: Stephen R. Scarborough 404-897-1880 x 23; Peg Byron 212-809-8585 x 230, 888-987-1984 pager