Anne Arundel School Employee Gets Benefits for Same-Sex Spouse Following Lambda Legal Discrimination Complaint
(Anne Arundel County, MD November 16, 2011)—Lambda Legal announced today that Stacy Pipkin, an administrator with Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS), will receive employment benefits for her same-sex spouse, following a Lambda Legal complaint on her behalf with the Maryland Commission on Human Relations and policy change from AACPS.
"We are pleased that the school system is honoring its obligations to its lesbian and gay employees, who can now count on the same benefits for their spouses that other married co-workers receive," said Susan Sommer, Lambda Legal Director of Constitutional Litigation. "Under Maryland law recognizing out-of-state marriages, Stacy Pipkin has a legal spouse. This policy change guarantees that employees who married out of state can protect their spouses with health insurance coverage and other employee benefits."
Stacy and Barbara Pipkin were married in Washington, D.C. in April 2010. Together, they adopted a son, Caiden, who is now two years old. Stacy has worked in the county school system since 2000, and Barbara works with developmentally disabled adults. After they married and Stacy attempted to enroll Barbara in the AACPS health plan—a benefit routinely offered to different-sex spouses of school system employees—she was denied.
In the complaint filed with the Maryland Commission on Human Relations in February 2011, Lambda Legal pointed out that denying spousal benefits is contrary to Maryland law and discriminatory. Maryland Attorney General Gansler, in his opinion dated February 23, 2010, summarized Maryland's longstanding law recognizing validly entered out-of-state marriages, which applies to marriages of same-sex couples. Lambda Legal argued that AACPS impermissibly denied spousal benefits to the Pipkins by refusing to respect the couple's D.C. marriage, simply because they are of the same sex. In July 2011, Anne Arundel County Public Schools changed its policy and made spousal benefits available to same-sex couples. Last week, during opening enrollment, Stacy Pipkin enrolled Barbara on her insurance.
"This was a big step forward for us. This policy change will save us money, and my wife Barbara will finally have more comprehensive health coverage," Pipkin said. "My employer is rightly acknowledging my out-of-state marriage and treating me as an equal to my heterosexual peers. I look forward to Maryland passing marriage equality so that other families will not have to fight as we did for fair and equal treatment."
"We are glad that AACPS is doing the right thing for its hardworking employees," added Sommer, "but married same-sex couples shouldn't need a lawyer to secure the protections their co-workers take for granted. Until Maryland establishes marriage equality, families like these will continue to be vulnerable to discrimination."
Susan Sommer, Director of Constitutional Litigation, is handling this matter for Lambda Legal. She is joined by co-counsel Peter M. Brody and Michael Laufert of Ropes & Gray LLP and Richard Kovelant of Kovelant & Kovelant LLC.