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Court protects benefits for state workers' partners

9th Circuit sends strong message about equality to employers in Arizona.

In November 2008, Arizona voters approved the Marriage Protection Amendment, which amended the state constitution to define marriage as the union between one man and one woman.

The politicians who promoted the amendment, and the citizens who voted for it, likley never imagined that it would come back to bite the state in the form of litigation challenging the legislature’s subsequent decision to exclude the domestic partners of state workers from health insurance benefits.

Financial Rationale

In its defense, Arizona said the law was passed to cut soaring health care costs in a time of budget crisis. But both the district court and the 9th Circuit found that the state failed to prove that the law was related to the state’s interest in cutting expenses. The plaintiffs claimed the law would have a minimal impact on state expenditures—they introduced expert evidence showing that same-sex partners tend to increase health plan enrollment by just 0.1 percent to 0.3 percent. The courts also emphasized that the state failed to provide evidence of the cost of providing benefits to same-sex partners. Its data on the number of domestic partners who participated in the health care plan didn’t specify how many of those were gay or lesbian.

Senior Editor

Mary Swanton

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