Lambda, Chicago Secure Final Court Approval of City Worker Benefits

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Trial court ruling blocks anti-gay extremists' suit to end domestic partner benefits
February 10, 1998

(CHICAGO, February 10, 1998) -- Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and the City of Chicago on Tuesday won a final trial court ruling against efforts to block domestic partner benefits, including health insurance, for partners of lesbian and gay city workers.

Judge Thomas Durkin in Cook County Circuit Court granted judgment in favor of the City and a number of its lesbian and gay employees, whom Lambda represented. The Judge upheld the law, which went into effect in May.

"The City is taking an important step towards fairness by providing essential health care benefits to its lesbian and gay employees," said Patricia M. Logue, managing attorney for Lambda's Midwest Regional Office in Chicago, after the hearing. "Judge Durkin's ruling recognizes that the City has the power to provide benefits under the Illinois Constitution. No one should have their health care put in limbo by anti-gay sentiment."

Judge Durkin ruled from the bench after Logue, city attorneys, and counsel for longtime anti-gay activist the Rev. Hiram Crawford and other plaintiffs presented argument.

The Chicago Council had originally passed a domestic-partner ordinance giving health and other benefits to same-sex partners of city employees in March of last year. Crawford and his group sued to stop the program, claiming that the ordinance exceeded Chicago's home rule power.

After Lambda and the City blocked the opposition's motion for a temporary restraining order last spring, the ordinance took effect on May 16, 1997. Further argument last September on a request for a preliminary injunction resulted in a court decision keeping the benefits in place; all sides made motions for summary judgment asking for a final ruling.

Predicting an appeal by Crawford, Logue said, "It would be too bad if the City had to continue to spend tax dollars on legal fees for this case." Opponents have 30 days to appeal Durkin's ruling.

Domestic-partner benefits are becoming commonplace in both public and private sectors. Some 50 cities and counties and four states as well as more than 500 other employers offer domestic partner benefits.

Lambda joined Chicago's efforts to defend the program, intervening in the interests of gay city workers on behalf of three city employees, Cheryl Tadin, Sandra King, and Jared Gulian.

(Crawford, et al. v. City of Chicago, Case No. 97 CH 5674)

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Contact: Patricia M. Logue, 312-663-4413 x 30, Peg Byron, 212-809-8585 x 230, 888-987-1984 pager


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