LGBT Legal Group Calls Gov. Jan Brewer’s Appeal "Wildly Exaggerated"

The battle over health benefits for state employees’ same-sex partners in Arizona could be heard by the Supreme Court in the coming year. posted on

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is trying to go back to the Supreme Court this fall. DARRYL WEBB / Reuters

In a filing today at the Supreme Court, a legal group aimed at advancing LGBT equality took Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to task, calling her appeal of a case about same-sex domestic partner benefits in her state “wildly exaggerated,” “illogical[]” and “unworthy of this Court’s review at this time.”

The filing, by Lambda Legal, follows Brewer’s July 2 request that the Supreme Court consider her appeal of the case, Diaz v. Brewer. Lawyers for Brewer told the Supreme Court that the question before it is whether a provision of Arizona law that prohibits the extension of health-care benefits to state employees’ domestic partners, called “Section O” in court filings, violates the constitutional guarantee of equal protection of the laws.

Brewer told the court the provision was “facially neutral, was applied to both same-sex and different-sex partners, and there was no evidence that the State intended to discriminate against gay and lesbian employees in enacting it.”

Today, Lambda Legal told the Supreme Court that no courts of appeals have disagreed with the appeals court decision in this case, which is a traditional reason why the court considers cases. Additionally, Lambda Legal argues that the current procedural posture of the case makes it a poor candidate for Supreme Court review — the case is not concluded, only a “preliminary” injunction from implementing Section O is being appealed — and that Brewer is wrong on the merits of the case and the appeals court was correct.

Countering Brewer’s description of Section O, Lambda Legal lawyers wrote today:

The State had provided family health coverage for both different-sex and same-sex domestic partners of State employees, but then dismantled that option, leaving marriage as the only way to access coverage for a partner. This step allowed heterosexual employees to marry and obtain the coverage, while making it impossible solely for lesbian and gay State employees to do so. Moreover, the State took this step after having issued a report that the prior system was affordable and functioning smoothly.

Brewer’s lawyers can reply in the coming week, and the Supreme Court will determine if it is going to take the case when the justices return from their summer recess.

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