Lambda Legal Applauds Decision Upholding Benefits for Same-Sex Partners of New Orleans City Employees
(New Orleans, January 24, 2008) — The Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans has granted Lambda Legal's motion for summary judgment, and ruled that the city of New Orleans was within its authority when it granted health benefits to domestic partners of city employees and established a domestic partner registry for city residents.
"This lawsuit needlessly jeopardized the health and well-being of city employees and their families by threatening to take away their health insurance," said Lambda Legal Senior Staff Attorney Brian Chase. "We're pleased the court dismissed the lawsuit and we are gratified that fairness prevailed in this case. Gay and lesbian employees of the City of New Orleans can breathe easier knowing that their domestic partners will remain covered by their health insurance as they rebuild this great city."
The city of New Orleans extended health insurance benefits to same-sex partners of city employees in 1997, and in 1999, the city council created a domestic partner registry that allows couples to make a public declaration to care for and support each other. Those policies came under attack in 2002 from the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), on behalf of a group of city taxpayers claiming a right to challenge the laws. At the city's request, Lambda Legal joined the lawsuit, representing city employee Peter Sabi and his partner, Philip Centanni, Jr. Sabi and Centanni later left Louisiana, and city employee Brian Barbieri and his partner Howard Lees joined the lawsuit.
Chief District Court Judge Nadine Ramsey ruled on January 15 that the State Constitution does indeed grant the city of New Orleans the authority to offer benefits to the domestic partners of city employees and maintain a registry of domestic partners. She also ruled that extending health care benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of city employees does not violate state laws restricting marriage to one man and one woman. "The extension of health care benefits does not afford a legal status 'identical or substantially similar to that of marriage,' nor does it in any way trample on any purported public policy favoring marriage over unmarried cohabitation," Ramsey wrote in her judgment. "The City's decision to extend health care benefits to the domestic partners of city employees simply provides health insurance to a greater number of persons, without regard to marital status."
Lambda Legal Senior Staff Attorney F. Brian Chase is counsel in Ralph v. City of New Orleans. Michael Vincenzo of King, LeBlanc and Bland is co-counsel.
Jason Howe, Lambda Legal Public Information Officer: 213.382.7600, ext. 247; Email: [email protected]