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Judge Blocks Arizona’s Termination of Domestic Partner Benefits

Jim Burroway

July 24th, 2010

Among the first policy changes pushed by Arizona’s legislature as soon as Republican Janet Brewer succeeded Janet Napolitano (D) as governor was to pass House Bill 2013, which changed the definition of “dependent” to specifically exclude domestic partners and adopted children of gay individuals, effectively ending insurance coverage for the families of gay state employees. This move came despite denials from Arizona’s Prop 102 promoters that they would seek to remove domestic partner benefits if the amendment banning same-sex marriage was added to the constitution. Prop 102 was approved by Arizona voters in 2008.

This week, U.S. District Judge John Sedwick granted a temporary injunction against the state of Arizona from implementing the new law:

“Because employees involved in same-sex partnerships do not have the same right to marry as their heterosexual counterparts, Section O has the effect of completely barring lesbians and gays from receiving family benefits,” Sedwick wrote. “Consequently, the spousal limitation in Section O burdens state employees with same-sex domestic partners more than state employees with opposite-sex domestic partners.”

Sedwick dismissed the state’s argument that exempting gay employees would make the benefits program “much easier to administer” and that “scarce funds for employee benefits are better spent on employees and dependents as defined in the new statute.”

Gov. Brewer claims that the state cannot afford to provide domestic partner benefits. But the annual cost of domestic partner benefits make up only about $3 million, or less than one-half of one percent of the $625 million spent on benefits for all employees. The elimination of domestic partner benefits would affect more straight families than gay. Gay and lesbian couples are believed to comprise a small fraction of the 893 domestic partners who have signed up with the state. The injunction against the elimination of domestic partner benefits applies only to families of gay- and lesbian-led employees because, as Judge Sedwick noted, heterosexual couples have the option of marrying.

Comments

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Greg
July 24th, 2010 | LINK

“scarce funds for employee benefits are better spent on employees and dependents as defined in the new statute.”

The good old, “The gays will bankrupt us,” argument.

pax58
July 24th, 2010 | LINK

Hope I get to keep my partner on my insurance…I work just as hard as the hetro state employees and they only had to provide a marriage certificate, I had to turn in quite a bit of paper work to prove we are in a relationship. Kinda debunces the “why can’t you just sign up your roomate” arguement.

Seething Mom
July 24th, 2010 | LINK

This is the state in which I was born, raised, and raised my own 3 children (aside from the 12 (wonderful) years we lived in Minnesota because of my husband’s job). We made the decision that Arizona would be the place we would retire and enjoy our children and grandchildren. But all of that has changed. This unelected governor and her over-the-top right-wing legislature has chased all three of our children to more progressive states — and I know we will not be far behind. There is nothing left for us here.

This state is hemorrhaging talented young people who have had it with the right-wing politics of division and bigotry that has prevailed in Arizona politics for years.

I am glad to hear that a judge somewhere in this state is trying to do the right thing in this instance, but in light of all that has been going on in this state, I fear it is too little, too late and we will continue to hemorrhage our best and our brightest.

Rossi
July 25th, 2010 | LINK

Grammar police needed with this sentence:
“This move came despite denials from Arizona’s Prop 102 promoters that the state would not remove domestic partner benefits if the amendment banning same-sex marriage was added to the constitution.”

I think you want to eliminate the word “not”.

Troy
July 25th, 2010 | LINK

I wonder when Arizonans will start calling themselves “The Fatherland.” Then they’ll succeed from the union and start speaking German. Am I wrong in understanding this regime to be utterly fascist?

Jim Burroway
July 25th, 2010 | LINK

The errant word has been arrested.

GDad
July 26th, 2010 | LINK

Am I reading this correctly?

“…changed the definition of “dependent” to specifically exclude domestic partners and adopted children of gay individuals.”

I adopted my son, because in my state, my partner and I could not adopt as a couple. That makes me his only parent. If I were to move to AZ and get a job working for the state, that means my son is not eligible to be on my insurance benefits? But the single straight woman who adopted two kids a few years back who works down the aisle from me could do the same thing and put her kids on her insurance? How is that even possible?

Jim Burroway
July 26th, 2010 | LINK

Arizona does not recognize second parent adoptions. If you are the state employee then your son would be recognized, unless your son were your partner’s biological son. Then he would not be, even if you had adopted him in a state that provides for second parent adoptions.

If you were heterosexually married, step children are recognized whether adopted or not.

DN
July 26th, 2010 | LINK

Seething Mom, you nailed it on the head. I’ve lived here for three years and I can’t get out of here fast enough (first round phone interview for a DC job in an hour hehe)

I mean, how is it American that that the level of rights you get depends on the state you live in? That’s messed up. Not intending to flirt with Godwin’s law, but isn’t it the case that the last time rights varied by state was pre-14th Amendment – ie slavery?

I literally want to leave this state because I get more rights in another. How on EARTH is that the American Way?

MattNYC
July 26th, 2010 | LINK

>isn’t it the case that the last time rights varied by state was pre-14th Amendment – ie slavery?

I am sure there are more recent cases, but Lawrence v. Texas (2003) –overturning the patchwork of anti-sodomy laws fell under the 14th Amendment (as did Loving v. Virginia [1967] overturning the patchwork of anti-miscegenation laws).

Eddie89
July 27th, 2010 | LINK

As a Hispanic, gay man, I get the double whammy from Arizona because if I’m driving down the street and get pulled over the cop will suspect my legal status because of my brown skin, Spanish first and last name and the way I dress.

The other whammy is because I’m gay my legal California marriage to my husband of 14 years is not recognized in this state.

The only reason we are still living in Arizona is because of the “Great Recession” and we just can’t afford to move to Cali. Not yet, but we are feverishly working on that!!!

Anyway, I’ve lived in AZ almost my entire life and politics have been bad before, but never to this religious, right wing extreme.

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