Suit: Same-Sex Partners of Retirees Should Get Benefits in NM

February 8, 2007 ( - Three lesbian couples have sued New Mexico's Retiree Health Authority, contesting the agency's refusal to grant health insurance benefits to domestic partners of retirees, the Associated Press reported.

The lawsuit was filed in the district court in Albuquerque, New Mexico by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of the couples.

The suit charges that the state is violating the Retiree Health Care Act, which says benefits should be available to eligible dependents, by refusing dependent insurance benefits to retirees with same-sex partners.

Former state social worker Ellen Novak, a partner in one of the couples filing the suit, kept her health insurance coverage when she retired in 2005 after 25 years of service, but Linda McCreary, her partner of 16 years, was not able to stay on the plan.

The couple now pays $225 a month for private insurance for McCreary – $1,200 more than they would be paying if McCreary were allowed to stay on Novak’s plan.

Governor Bill Richardson signed an executive order in April 2003 (See New Mexico Governor Approves Domestic Partner Benefits ) allowing benefits for domestic partners of state employees. The lawsuit said the order does not distinguish among types of employment benefits nor between employees with opposite-sex or same-sex domestic partners, according to the AP.

However, retiree health benefits are managed under the Retiree Health Authority.