Louisiana Appeals Court to Hear Oral Arguments Monday in Lambda Legal's Case Defending City of New Orleans Same-Sex Domestic Partner Registry and Benefits Policy
(New Orleans, January 26, 2005) – In oral arguments set for Monday, January 31, at 10 a.m. at the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, Lambda Legal will fight off an attack by an antigay group seeking to end the City of New Orleans’ policy extending health insurance benefits to domestic partners of its gay and lesbian workers as well as the city’s domestic partner registry.
“Our clients deserve the same health coverage their co-workers receive for their families, and the City of New Orleans did the right thing by offering it,” said Brian Chase, Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal’s South Central Regional Office in Dallas, who is handling the case. “This benefit directly affects the health and well-being of city employees and their families.”
In 1997, the City of New Orleans extended health insurance benefits to same-sex partners of city employees. In 1999 the City Council, by a majority vote, created a domestic partner registry that allows couples to make a public commitment to care for and support each other. The domestic partner benefits policy and the city’s domestic partner registry have come under attack by a radical antigay group, the Alliance Defense Fund, based in Scottsdale, Arizona. The antigay group claims that the city’s benefits program violates antigay citizens’ rights, while Lambda Legal says that nobody’s rights are violated when elected officials provide health coverage to the families of gay and lesbian city employees. A lower court dismissed the antigay group’s lawsuit last year, and the group appealed the case to the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
At the city’s request, Lambda Legal joined the lawsuit 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. Sabi and Centanni have been together for almost nine years. As a self-employed writer, Centanni 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 over 10 states, and nearly 140 counties and cities nationwide have extended health insurance benefits to the domestic partners of gay and lesbian employees.
More than 60 cities and counties have domestic partner registries, some of which have benefits attached. In general, registries have important symbolic value for couples who sign up, and both public and private employers often find them helpful when extending benefits to employees nonmarital partners. Lambda Legal has handled many similar lawsuits on behalf of cities whose domestic partnership benefits and registries are attacked by antigay groups. One 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. A federal appeals court ruled in favor of the city and its domestic partnership plan.
Who: Brian Chase, Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal’s South Central Regional Office in Dallas.
What: Oral arguments in Ralph et al v. City of New Orleans
When: Monday, January 31, at 10 a.m.
Where: Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, 400 Royal Street, New Orleans, LA
*** Brian Chase, Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal’s South Central Regional Office in Dallas will be presenting the oral arguments in the case and will be available to the press for comment immediately after the court proceedings on Monday.