Several state officials and students expressed support for the LGBT community last week after Gov. Jan Brewer requested the supreme court hear a case regarding the constitutionality of an Arizona law eliminating domestic partnership benefits for state employees.
Domestic partner benefits were first written into state personnel rules in 2008, supported by former Gov. Janet Napolitano. The change redefined eligibility for such benefits to include any couple, without regard to sexual orientation, that could meet a certain set of criteria.
Upon Napolitano leaving office in 2009 to become Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Brewer signed a law that would have taken away healthcare benefits from the domestic partners of state employees. The law was challenged later in 2009 by Lambda Legal, an LGBT civil rights organization based in New York, and was struck down by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The law was determined by two lower courts to be unconstitutional because it prevented homosexual couples, who cannot be married in Arizona, from receiving the same employee benefits as heterosexual couples.
If the Supreme Court approves Brewer's request and hears the case, a decision in favor of the law would reverse the Ninth Court's decision.
Edwin Leslie, who was appointed to the Tourism Advisory Council by Brewer, resigned by letter two days after Brewer requested to overturn the decision.
Leslie said in his resignation letter, which was posted online through azcentral.com, that Brewer's actions did not reflect her Independence Day statement in which she said "citizens of this great country have been blessed with liberties and inalienable rights that make us truly and uniquely American."
Leslie said his decision to resign is rooted in the "fiber of (his) conscience."
"The LGBT community, of which I am a proud part, deserves all of the same rights, privileges and liberties as every American, be it in domestic partner benefits, adoption, marriage or any other rights that are so freely enjoyed by every other person in the U.S.," Leslie said. "It is my hope that one day the State of Arizona leads the nation in extending benefits to LGBT families, allowing same sex marriage and adoption, and show that everyone is welcome in Arizona."
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said in a July 9 press release that the City of Phoenix recognizes and embraces diversity as a strength.
"(In Phoenix) it doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight; as long as you get the job done, you’ll get the same benefits," Stanton said. "By offering competitive benefits, we are able to attract and retain the most talented people."
Stanton said offering domestic partner benefits is both the right thing to do and "smart management practice."
Economics freshman Anisha Hindocha said Brewer is using her power as governor inappropriately.
"Arizona has been very radical," Hindocha said. "She is really trying to push that streak."
She said Brewer's quest to strip domestic partner benefits is a "ridiculous waste of time and effort."
Economics sophomore Jon Woodmansee said the fact that domestic partner benefits are widely supported made Brewer's request to the Supreme Court ridiculous.
"I felt ashamed for Arizona, because there's legitimately no reason to do this," Woodmansee said. "(Domestic partner benefits are) one of the very few rights that gay people have across the country."
Woodmansee said family healthcare is a basic human need.
He said Jan Brewer's attempt to remove domestic partner benefits goes beyond not supporting gay marriage and displays a "disdain for gay people."
"It's truly to so undermine an entire human being's existence," Woodmansee said. "This governor has shown time and time again that she is against progress and she's against common sense."
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