Lambda Legal Joins City of New Orleans in Defending Domestic Partnership Benefits for City Employees

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Despite attack from right-wing group, city is determined to do right by its gay and lesbian workers
August 14, 2003

(New Orleans, August 14, 2003) In court papers filed today, Lambda Legal joins the City of New Orleans in defending the city’s policy extending health insurance benefits to domestic partners of its gay and lesbian workers and protecting the city’s domestic partner registry.


In 1997, the City of New Orleans, by executive order, extended insurance benefits to same-sex partners of city employees. The domestic partner benefits policy and the city’s domestic partner registry have come under attack by a right-wing conservative group, the Alliance Defense Fund, based in Scottsdale, Arizona.

At the city’s request, Lambda Legal has joined the lawsuit today representing city employee Peter Sabi and his partner, Philip Centanni. Sabi has worked in the city’s Vieux Carre Commission as a senior building inspector for nine years. Centanni is a self-employed writer.

“The City of New Orleans took it upon itself to do the right thing by its gay and lesbian employees and their families by giving them access to the same health insurance plans as its heterosexual employees and their families. The city is well within its rights to do so,” said Brian Chase, a staff attorney in Lambda Legal’s South Central Regional Office in Dallas, who is handling the case.

Sabi and Centanni have been together for almost nine years. As a self-employed writer, Philip was paying $500 a month for health insurance before the city extended benefits to its employees’ same-sex partners. Now the couple pays $50 a month for Centanni’s coverage.

Public employers in 11 states, 23 counties and 58 cities nationwide have extended health insurance benefits to the domestic partners of gay and lesbian employees. In 4 states, 11 counties and 50 cities nationwide, gay and lesbian couples may sign a domestic partnership registry which may or may not carry any direct benefit. Private employers often use domestic partner registries as a way to identify the eligibility of domestic partners of their gay and lesbian employees for health insurance and other benefits.

Lambda Legal has filed many similar suits on behalf of cities whose domestic partnership benefits and registries are attacked by right-wing groups. One recent example is the case of S.D. Myers v. City and County of San Francisco. Lambda Legal filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the city of San Francisco. In early August, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of the city and its domestic partnership plan.

Brian Chase, staff attorney in Lambda Legal’s Dallas, office is the attorney on the case.

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

Contact: Lisa Hardaway 212-809-8585 ext: 266 pager: 888-987-1971

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