A big win for equality. Arizona cannot deny health care benefits to the same-sex partners of gay and lesbian state employees.
In September 2009, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer eliminated state domestic partner benefits about one year after they were implemented. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld an injunction that blocked enforcement of the law that Brewer signed, reports the Arizona Republic.
In its unanimous ruling, a three-judge panel of the appellate court noted that the state is not obligated to provide health-care benefits but said denying them to a specific group of employees violates the equal-protection provisions of the U.S. Constitution.
"When a state chooses to provide such benefits, it may not do so in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner that adversely affects particular groups that may be unpopular," the court stated in its opinion.
As written, the 2009 law also would have eliminated health coverage for several other groups, including heterosexual domestic partners and adult children. It was passed in response to the state's budget crisis. Thus far, the only group to lose its coverage is opposite-sex partners. Their benefits were eliminated in January.
In February 2011, the state's lawyers claimed that same-sex partner benefits were cut as part of a "cost-saving" measure. But the state failed to show how much the same-sex partner benefits actually cost, according to the ruling.