State Capitol News
5:49 pm
Mon July 9, 2012

AZ's Domestic Partners Benefits Rules May Go to US Supreme Court

State officials are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to allow it to cancel insurance benefits for the domestic partners of state and university workers who are gay.

Arizona began offering those benefits in 2008 under a change in rules pushed through by then-Gov. Janet Napolitano. But she quit the following year to go to Washington. That cleared the way for her successor, Jan, Brewer, and the Republican-controlled Legislature to pass a law restricting such benefits to married couples. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that was illegal discrimination, at least for gays, because a state constitutional amendment bans same-sex weddings. That means there is no legal way for gay workers to get benefits. Now the state is asking to nation's high court to intervene. Gov. Jan Brewer said the decision to eliminate the benefits was justified financially.

"I was faced with the hugest budget deficit Arizona's ever faced," Brewer said. "So when we were trying to come together to get our budget balanced, that was one area which we could go in and address."

In seeking Supreme Court review, state Attorney General Tom Horne said budget is just one issue. He is arguing that state lawmakers should be allowed to deny such benefits because it -- quote -- furthers the state's interest in promoting marriage.