The ACLU is suing the state of New Mexico on behalf of three lesbian couples seeking retirement health insurance for the domestic partners of lesbian and gay state employees, which the state currently provides only to employees and their spouses. The lawsuit charges that the state's policy of denying lesbian and gay state retirees equal health insurance for their partners violates the state constitution's equality guarantees. Unlike their straight colleagues, lesbian and gay employees are barred from marrying in the state and therefore, in the absence of domestic partner benefits, are denied equal compensation.
In 2003, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson issued an executive order providing state employees, both gay and straight, with the option of providing their partners health insurance through domestic partner coverage. Under the order, domestic partner coverage is not available to employees after they retire like spousal coverage is. While unmarried straight employees have the option of marrying their domestic partners and continuing the coverage, same-sex couples are barred from marrying in New Mexico.
Proposed legislation, SB 502, which was introduced by Senator John Grubesic and will be the subject of a committee hearing on February 7, 2006, would close the loophole and provide benefits to the domestic partners of retired employees.
Status: VICTORY! New Mexico has settled the case and agreed to provide retirement health insurance to the domestic partners of state employees.