Gay and Lesbian Partners Seek State Benefits

Affiliate: ACLU of Alaska
April 18, 2001 12:00 am

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ANCHORAGE, AK — Attorneys for nine gay and lesbian public employees and their domestic partners argued in Anchorage Superior Court Tuesday that it is unconstitutional for the state and the Municipality of Anchorage to deny them health insurance and pension benefits equal to those married couples receive, the Anchorage Daily News reported. According to the Daily News, the lawsuit, filed in 1999 by the Alaska Civil Liberties Union and the national ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, represents the interests of eight lesbian couples in which at least one partner works for the state. The other couple consists of two gay men, one of whom is a city employee.

The case was filed shortly after Alaska voters overwhelmingly approved a 1998 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages. The lawsuit brings to Alaska an argument being aired across the country.

“Our clients don’t seek marriage in this case,” said Ken Choe, an ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights staff attorney.

But Choe argued that it is unconstitutional for the state to require a couple to be married in order to get employment benefits while at the same time excluding gays and lesbians from marriage.

Heterosexual non-married couples have the option to marry and obtain state and city benefits, attorneys argued. The policy denying employment benefits specifically discriminates against same-sex couples and infringes on their rights guaranteed in the state constitution.

Three attorneys representing the state and city argued that the gay and lesbian couples are not specifically targeted under the policy.

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