In re Workers' Compensation Claim of Larry Courtney and In re Workers' Compensation Claim of William Valentine
Gay Partners of Men Who Died on 9/11 and in November JFK Crash Announce Historic Legal Action Monday Against Insurance Companies for Denying Them Spousal Benefits
Insurance companies say same-sex partners don’t qualify as spouses; speakers at Monday’s news conference were with partners for 14 and 21 years
These are first-ever cases brought by same-sex partners related to 9/11 or JFK crash - and first-ever cases brought by gay or lesbian partners seeking coverage under New York’s Workers’ Compensation Law
(NEW YORK, Monday, April 22, 2002) -- Two residents of Manhattan whose domestic partners died in separate tragedies last year - in the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center and the November 12th crash of American Airlines Flight 587 at Kennedy Airport - held a news conference Monday to announce legal action against their partners’ insurance companies for denying them spousal benefits. The men were joined by U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan), a strong supporter of lesbian and gay rights
The two surviving partners, represented by Lambda Legal, have filed claims with the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board to receive spousal benefits under New York’s Workers’ Compensation Law. The insurance companies are now challenging the right of the surviving partners to receive benefits under the law, asserting that same-sex domestic partners do not qualify as spouses.
The administrative hearing for one of the two surviving partners, Larry Courtney, will take place on Tuesday, April 23 in Manhattan. Larry’s partner, Eugene Clark, died on September 11th at the World Trade Center, where Gene had been an administrative assistant at Aon Consulting. Larry and Gene, residents of the West Side of Manhattan, had been partners for almost 14 years.
The hearing of the other surviving partner, Bill Valentine, will take place in July. Bill’s partner, Joe Lopes, was a flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 587 when the plane crashed off Kennedy Airport last November 12th, claiming the lives of all on board. Bill and Joe, also residents of the West Side of Manhattan, had been partners for 21 years.
Both couples had executed various legal documents to afford themselves protection as couples. They had health care proxies and documents designating one another’s partners as insurance, 401k and pension beneficiaries. Both couples also were registered as domestic partners with the City of New York.
Larry Courtney, whose hearing is on Tuesday, said, “Just like married couples, Gene and I were a partnership in every way - emotionally, financially, legally and in our everyday lives. Gene would want me to seek the protections we should have as a married couple because we always believed we were a married couple. I’m still wearing the ring to prove it.”
The insurance company opposing Larry Courtney’s claim is CNA Insurance, acting as third-party administrator for Trancontinental Insurance. The claim manager is Cambridge Integrated Services Group.
Bill Valentine, whose partner Joe died aboard Flight 587, said: “Joe was my spouse. It would be an insult to our relationship and Joe’s memory if he were recognized as anything less. And that’s why I’m bringing this claim: to honor the reality of what Joe and I and our families and friends all knew we had.”
The insurance company opposing Bill Valentine’s claim is American International Group (AIG), acting as third-party administrator for National Union Fire Insurance. The claim manager is Specialty Risk Services.
The two cases are the first brought by same-sex partners related to either the September 11th or Flight 587 tragedies. The cases are also the first to be brought by gay or lesbian partners seeking coverage under New York’s Workers’ Compensation Law. That law gives first priority to a surviving spouse to receive benefits of up to $400/week for the remainder of the surviving spouse’s life or until the spouse remarries.
Adam Aronson, staff attorney at Lambda Legal, which is representing Larry Courtney and Bill Valentine, said: “Eugene Clark and Joe Lopes both died on the job. They paid the same taxes and insurance premiums as their co-workers, and it’s only fair that their closest family members -- their life partners -- get support as spouses.”
Lambda Legal is America’s oldest and largest legal organization dedicated to the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgendered people, and people with HIV and AIDS. Lambda Legal has its headquarters in New York and regional offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta. Lambda Legal will open an office in Dallas this summer.
Contact: Steven Goldstein 917-449-8918