Court: Arizona Can't Deny Benefits To Same-Sex Partners

A three-judge panel has struck down Arizona's law denying public health insurance benefits to same-sex domestic partners, saying the state can't provide health care "in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner that adversely affects particular groups that may be unpopular."

In April 2008, just before joining the Obama administration, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano had authorized domestic partners to be covered under the health insurance of state employees. That November, Arizona voters approved a "Marriage Protection Amendment," defining marriage as between a man and a woman and going the extra mile to deny health care benefits to same-sex partners. Napolitano's successor, Jan Brewer, signed that law, and then separately went the extra mile and denied all domestic partners, not just gay ones, health benefits, citing a budget crisis. (The plaintiffs showed that would represent a tiny savings).

The Ninth Circuit Court agreed with the district court that the law was still discriminatory because same-sex couples couldn't marry and get benefits, as opposite-sex couples could.


One example of potential harm called out in the opinion is Beverly Seckinger, a Professor and Interim Director of the School of Media Arts at the University of Arizona, who has been with her partner, Susan Taunton, for over 22 years. Taunton is the primary caregiver for her 89-year-old mother, who has dementia, and has been denied private insurance because of her own chronic asthma. In a grim Catch-22, she likely doesn't qualify for Medicaid, because of Seckinger's financial support.

Same Sex Partner Benefits Can't Be Cut Off [SF Chronicle]