Friday, November 20, 2009

Arizona Workers Sue to Keep Benefits

From Wednesday's Advocate comes news that state employees in Arizona are suing to keep domestic-partner benefits from becoming a casualty of budget cuts.

Ten state workers, represented by Lambda Legal, filed suit Tuesday in U.S. district court in Tucson, saying a plan to end the benefits discriminates against gay and lesbian employees.

Under a budget deal approved by the state legislature last summer and signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer in September, Arizona would no longer offer benefits for domestic partners but would retain them for heterosexual spouses. Domestic-partner benefits are scheduled to end November 24, according to court documents.

“This is an issue of equal pay for equal work,” Lambda Legal staff attorney Tara Borelli said in a press release. “By stripping away these vital benefits from loyal state employees, the state isn't just paying them less for the same work than their heterosexual colleagues — it's pulling away a vital lifeline that all workers need. This is simply cruel and saves the state next to nothing.”

The release goes on to quote lead plaintiff Tracy Collins, an Arizona highway patrol officer, who relies on the coverage for her partner of 11 years, Diana Forrest, and their family. “I put my life on the line every day for the people of Arizona just by going to work,” Collins said. “Though the stress of working a dangerous job takes a toll on my family, I'm proud to be a public servant. But losing Diana’s health coverage will put us in a desperate situation.”

Other plaintiffs in the case, Collins v. Brewer, include employees of state universities and the Department of Game and Fish.

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