Court Defends Gay Workers from Arizona Gov’s Attempt to Strip Benefits
A bill signed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer tried to take away the family benefits that predecessor Janet Napolitano provided, via executive order, for the families of the state’s gay and lesbian employees.
But a decision from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an injunction against the bill, ruling that to target one group for the loss of benefits enjoyed by everyone else is a violation of equal protections set out in the U.S. Constitution.
Brewer signed a bill to strip benefits from same-sex families two years ago, in September of 2009. Napolitano had provided those benefits via executive order the year before. The bill also sought to deprive straight domestic partners of benefits, as well as grown offspring, reported local newspaper the Arizona Republic in a Sept. 6 article.
"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 unanimous verdict, issued by a panel of three judges, said.
The governor’s office defended the law as an attempt to reign in the state’s budget, and noted that the bill had treated both straight and gay unmarried couples equally -- a technically true statement, but one that means little in practical terms in a state where gay and lesbian families have been denied the legal recognition and rights of marriage through an amendment to the Arizona constitution, a point of which the verdict took note.
"While the district court noted that [the bill] was not discriminatory on its face, because it affected both same-sex and different-sex couples, the court held that [the bill] had a discriminatory effect," the opinion, written by Circuit Judge Mary Schroeder, read, reported MetroWeekly on Sept. 6.
"This is because, under Arizona law, different-sex couples could retain their health coverage by marrying, but same-sex couples could not.... Therefore, the district court granted plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction on equal protection grounds."
However, a spokesperson for the governor portrayed the verdict as being the source of family inequality in the state, the Arizona Republic article said.
"The federal court has created this inequality by preventing the termination of same-sex benefits but allowing the elimination of benefits for straight couples," Matthew Benson told the media. "When you read the ruling, the court’s real motivation seems to be for the legalization of gay marriage."
Benson offered even more hostile words regarding the court.