Louisiana Court of Appeal Upholds Benefits for Same-Sex Partners of New Orleans City Employees

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"The appeal by ADF left New Orleans city employees and their families in unnecessary legal suspense for a year."
January 21, 2009

(New Orleans, January 21, 2009) — The Louisiana Court of Appeal, Fourth District, has upheld a Lambda Legal victory in lower court 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.


The January 15 decision came a year to the day that the Civil District Court for Orleans Parish ruled that the State Constitution does indeed grant the city of New Orleans the authority to offer health benefits to the domestic partners of city employees and maintain a registry of domestic partners for city residents. The anti–gay Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) appealed that ruling, saying that the registry violated state laws prohibiting marriage for same–sex couples and that local governments lack the authority to govern such arrangements, but the Court of Appeal rejected those arguments.


The three–judge panel wrote: "The registry ordinance has no effect on the Civil Code articles relating to marriage, creates no obligations between the parties who choose to register, and provides neither an enforcement mechanism nor a cause of action for which redress may be sought in courts of this state."    


"The appeal by ADF left New Orleans city employees and their families in unnecessary legal suspense for a year," said Lambda Legal Supervising Senior Staff Attorney Ken Upton. "The Court of Appeal has upheld a decision that was fair and just. The lawsuit to strip the families of gay and lesbian city employees of their health coverage was a cruel waste of everyone's time." 


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 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.


Lambda Legal Supervising Senior Staff Attorney Ken Upton is counsel in Ralph v. City of New Orleans. He is joined by co–counsel Michael Vincenzo of King, LeBlanc and Bland.


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Contact: Jason Howe, Office:  213-382-7600 ext. 247; Email: jhowe@lambdalegal.org

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