FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ALBUQUERQUE – In response to a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, New Mexico has agreed to provide retirement health insurance to the domestic partners of state employees.
"We are very pleased that the state has agreed to settle this litigation and provide the insurance. It wasn't fair that the state forced lesbian and gay employees to pay the high cost of health care for often inferior health insurance for their families when they worked just as hard as their straight colleagues," said Peter Simonson of the ACLU of New Mexico. "I'm sure this will be welcome news to all lesbian and gay state employees, but especially to those who have retired or are planning to do so soon."
The ACLU brought the lawsuit on February 5, 2007 on behalf lesbian and gay state employees and their domestic partners. The lawsuit charged that it was a violation of the state constitution's equal protection guarantees for the state to treat lesbian and gay employees differently from its straight employees. The settlement will reached with the state will cover both gay and straight employees and their domestic partners.
"This is fantastic news. We can finally start planning our retirement," said Havens Levitt, who has been a teacher for the Albuquerque public school for 25 years. "Until now, our only option was for me to keep working because my partner's employment doesn't provide insurance for her and private insurance was just too expensive. It means a lot that the state has acknowledged I should be treated the same as my straight colleagues." Levitt and her partner, Rebecca Dakota, have been partners for 13 years. Dakota is a self-employed consultant to non-profits and an independent filmmaker.
Pursuant to the settlement, the state has agreed to develop a process for enrolling those interested during the next open enrollment period, which comes this fall.
The legal team for the ACLU in Levitt and Dakota v. New Mexico is George Bach, staff attorney with the ACLU of New Mexico, Ken Choe, a senior staff attorney with the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project of the ACLU, and cooperating attorney Maureen Sanders of Sanders & Westbrook, P.C.
Additional information about the case including a Q&A and the legal papers is available at: www.aclu.org/lgbt/relationships/28241res20070205.html.