Supreme Court Denies Appeal By Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer On Domestic Partner Benefits Case

In denying appeals in 10 gay-rights cases, the high court clears its docket — and deals a loss to the Arizona governor. The Arizona law ending domestic partner benefits has been called discriminatory — and is on hold for now — but Brewer says the case is simply about the state budget.

Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

WASHINGTON — In a bit of a clean-up move after its Wednesday ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act’s federal definition of marriage, the Supreme Court on Thursday denied a series of appeals in gay-rights cases — including one in which Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is attempting to keep a law in place that would end state employees’ domestic partner benefits.

In denying the appeals in 10 cases addressing gay rights, eight formally ended other challenges to DOMA brought by various parties to the four challenges whose appeals had been pending before the courts. Because the challenges had succeeded below, and because the court agreed that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional, the court simply denied the parties’ requests for the Supreme Court to hear the appeal.

In the Arizona case, the legislature ended domestic-partner benefits for state employees, a move that prevented same-sex couples from getting benefits because they are unable to marry in that state. After a lawsuit was filed challenging the move, the trial-court issued a preliminary injunction stopping the new law from going into effect. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, and Brewer asked the Supreme Court to take the case and allow the law ending the benefits to go into effect. On Thursday, the Supreme Court declined to do so.

“With its decision today, the Supreme Court has not only upheld the preliminary injunction of an economically-prudent, practical state law. It has also undercut the ability of duly-elected State officials to make decisions critical to managing the State budget,” Brewer said in a statement. “This case has never been about domestic partners, same-sex or otherwise. It is always been about the authority of elected State officials to make decisions with which we have been entrusted by the voters. I’m disappointed the High Court has eroded that authority with its decision today.”

Because the trial court only has thus far issued a preliminary injunction, however, the case itself will continue, with Lambda Legal, representing state employees who would lose their benefits under the law, seeking a permanent injunction stopping the law from going into effect.

“Lesbian and gay employees of the state of Arizona can now rest assured that their vital family health insurance will not be stripped away while they fight the State’s discriminatory effort to eliminate that coverage,” Lambda Legal attorney Tara Borelli said in a statement. “With the preliminary injunction now left in place, we can proceed to the resolution of the case.”

In the final case, Coalition for the Protection of Marriage v. Sevcik, the court denied the request of the proponents of Nevada’s marriage amendment that the court hear an appeal of Beverly Sevcik and Mary Baranovich’s challenge to the constitutionality of the amendment. Although the couple, represented by Lambda Legal, lost at the trial-court level, the case is on appeal before the 9th Circuit.

The coalition, however, asked the Supreme Court to skip that step and take the case now. The Supreme Court had held the request, along with all the others, and denied it today, meaning the appeal at the 9th Circuit will continue.

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