Lambda, City of Chicago Again Win with Defense of Domestic Partners Ordinance

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Third strike against anti-gay legal challenge to city benefits program
March 31, 1999

(CHICAGO, March 31, 1999) -- Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund exulted Wednesday with its latest victory upholding Chicago's domestic partners benefits law against an anti-gay challenge that is now a three-time loser.

The Illinois Appellate Court agreed with Lambda and the City of Chicago in Crawford v. City of Chicago that the city has the authority to provide health care insurance and other essential benefits to its lesbian and gay employees and their families.

The ruling marked a third defeat for a group of local conservative ministers and others seeking to stop such benefits coverage for city workers since 1997.

Managing Attorney Patricia M. Logue of Lambda's Midwest Regional Office said, "Once again, this ridiculous, anti-gay challenge has failed to derail the city's policy to treat lesbian and gay employees with basic fairness. Chicago's benefits program follows the trend of hundreds of public and private employers, including many Fortune 500 firms offering domestic partner benefits."

At the hearing held on January 26, Logue argued on behalf of three lesbian and gay city employees Lambda represents in the case, joining attorneys for the city to urge the appeals court's rebuff to claims that the benefits program violates the state ban on marriages for same-sex couples.

In its unanimous, 20-page decision, the appeals court rejected the the challenge on every count and noted that top corporations such as IBM, Microsoft, Walt Disney, Apple Computer, and Time- Warner provide health benefits to domestic partners of employees.

"No state statute prohibits private or public employers from offering such benefits," the court said.

The domestic partner benefits law has been in effect since May 1997, after Lambda and the city defeated plaintiffs in a first round, when the ministers group attempted to get a temporary injunction barring the city from extending the benefits.

In February, 1998, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Durkin ruled from the bench, also in a broad rejection of the plaintiffs' claims. That decision established that Chicago has the power to provide domestic-partner benefits to city workers, and that no Illinois law prevented the city from doing so.

Lambda's clients are Cheryl Tadin, Sandra King, and Jared Gulian. Cooperating Attorneys Tracey Kitzman and Joseph Miller of the Chicago law firm Sidley & Austin assisted in the case.

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

(Crawford v. City of Chicago, Case No. 1-98-0920(5))


Contact: Patricia M. Logue 312-663-4413, ext 30; Heather Sawyer, 312-663-4413, ext. 22; Peg Byron 212-809-8585, 888-987-1984


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