NY Court Dismisses Same-Sex Benefits Case

January 24, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The New York Supreme Court has dismissed a case alleging that the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) discriminated against a same-sex partner by denying her health benefits.

>The employee and her registered domestic partner brought the case to court, alleging that the MTA violated New York City and state human rights laws by denying the partner health benefits, according to BNA. The court dismissed the case, brought by Leslie Rios, saying that the couple had failed to prove that the denial of claims was discriminatory.

>The court, in its ruling, said that the MTA demonstrated that its conduct in denying the benefits was based on legitimate reasons, namely that the policy applies to all unmarried couples regardless of sexual orientation. It also proved that it has significant business reasons, according to the court, such as the terms of its collective bargaining agreement with the plaintiff’s union.

>Same-sex benefits have been a contentious topic as of late, with Mayor Michael Bloomberg pushing the city pension board to award benefits to same-sex married couples in the same manner as they do traditional couples (See  Bloomberg Orders Equal City Pension Treatment ).

“I am forwarding the opinion (of city lawyers) to my representatives on the boards of the City’s five pension systems and directing them to introduce resolutions to ensure that parties to these relations are treated in the same manner as parties to opposite-sex marriages,” Bloomberg said in a  Web site statement in November. “This will enables us to extend benefits, such as in the case of accidental death, to spouses of City employees who are legally married, regardless of their sexual orientation.  In addition, since a change in New York  State law is required to grant pension benefits to domestic partners, I will support state legislation that achieves that worthy goal.   All of our City employees deserve to be treated equally, regardless of their sexual orientation, and I hope these measures will ensure that they are.”

In October, a couple married in Canada were also awarded benefits by the state   based on a ruling by New York state Comptroller Alan Hevesi (See  Empire State Couple Wins Equal State Benefits ).