Ariz. Asks for Supreme Court Review of Partner Benefits

July 10, 2012 ( – Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to allow Arizona to eliminate health care benefits for state employees' same-sex partners.

The Arizona attorney general on July 2 filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, asking the high court to hear a case concerning a bill in which Brewer overturned an executive order from her predecessor, Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano (see “AZ Lawmakers Could Kill Domestic Partner Benefits Rule”), The Arizona Republic reports. Employees sued the state, alleging that eliminating health coverage for same-sex domestic partners of state and university employees is discrimination. The state believes the law is constitutional. 

According to the news report, the law also eliminated health coverage for several other groups, including heterosexual domestic partners and adult children. Only the portion cutting services for heterosexual partners is in effect.  

The U.S. District Court in Arizona and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have said the state must continue providing benefits to the partners of gay and lesbian workers (see “Court Blocks AZ Domestic Partner Benefits Limit”). In its unanimous ruling, the three-judge appellate court panel said the state is not obligated to provide health care benefits but denying them to a specific group of employees violates the equal-protection provisions of the U.S. Constitution.  

The court also said the state’s policy unfairly impacted gay and lesbian workers because, unlike their heterosexual counterparts, they cannot legally marry under state law.