Lambda Helps Bring a Personal Angle to Domestic Partner Lawsuit

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Atlanta Councilmember seeks to bolster city's fight against state insurance commissioner
May 13, 1999

(ATLANTA, May 13, 1999) -- Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund has asked a Georgia judge to allow an Atlanta Councilmember to join the fight against the State Insurance Commissioner's ban on insurance companies' selling policies with domestic partner health coverage.

Lambda filed a motion to intervene in City of Atlanta v. Oxendine on behalf of Cathy Woolard, who represents Atlanta's Council District 6. The motion was filed late Wednesday in the Fulton County Superior Court. Woolard, like countless other employees throughout Georgia, is blocked from receiving health insurance benefits for her dependent domestic partner because of a directive by Georgia Insurance Commissioner John W. Oxendine.

Stephen R. Scarborough, staff attorney at Lambda's Southern Regional Office in Atlanta, said, "Cathy Woolard brings the perspective of an individual whose daily life is directly affected by the Commissioner's wrongheaded policy. She's a resident and a community leader whose voice deserves to be heard. We hope the court will allow her to participate in this important battle for workplace fairness."

Oxendine's actions are aimed at foiling the city's attempts to implement its domestic partner benefits program for city employees, which the Georgia Supreme Court upheld in 1997.

Said Woolard, "Commissioner Oxendine is thwarting Atlanta's longstanding effort to provide fair and equitable compensation for all its unmarried employees, gay and non-gay, who are in committed relationships. He also stands in the way of the city acting on its broader policies and promises of nondiscrimination."

Woolard has been with her partner, Karen Geney, for eleven years. The councilwoman noted, "The City has been trying for years to do the right thing for its employees and their dependents. I hope that my situation will help the court understand the importance of what the City is trying to accomplish. Commissioner Oxendine's indifference to the plight of the families that could benefit from domestic partner coverage is truly appalling."

In March, the city sued the Commissioner for rejecting an attempt by Woolard's insurer, United HealthCare of Georgia, to bring its insurance policies into compliance with the Atlanta domestic partner benefits ordinance.

More than one thousand public and private employers across the country, wishing to remain competitive and to make equal treatment a hallmark of their personnel policies, already offer benefits to their employees' domestic partners. Top corporations like IBM, Microsoft, Walt Disney, Apple Computer, and Time-Warner already provide such benefits.

Founded in 1973 and with offices in New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Chicago, Lambda is the nation's oldest and largest legal organization serving lesbians, gay men, and people with HIV/AIDS.

(City of Atlanta v. Oxendine, No. 1999-CV-06162)


Contact: Stephen R. Scarborough 404-897-1880 x 23

Peg Byron 212-809-8585 x 230, 888-987-1984 pager


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