Court rules New Orleans can grant benefits to same-sex partners

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A homophobic Christian group has failed in its attempt to stop the city of New Orleans granting health benefits to the domestic partners of employees.

The Alliance Defence Fund, who claim to “aggressively defend religious liberty,” had appealed an earlier court ruling in favour of the city.

Gay legal adocacy group Lambda Legal said the ADF’s court actions left New Orleans city employees and their families in unnecessary legal suspense for a year.

ADF claimed that the registry violated state laws prohibiting marriage for same-sex couples and that local governments lack the authority to govern such arrangements.

On January 15th the Louisiana Court of Appeal, Fourth District, upheld the lower court ruling that the city of New Orleans was within its authority when it granted health benefits to domestic partners of city employees and established a domestic partner registry for city residents.

The three–judge panel wrote:

“The registry ordinance has no effect on the Civil Code articles relating to marriage, creates no obligations between the parties who choose to register, and provides neither an enforcement mechanism nor a cause of action for which redress may be sought in courts of this state.”

Lambda Legal Supervising Senior Staff Attorney Ken Upton said:

“The Court of Appeal has upheld a decision that was fair and just.

“The lawsuit to strip the families of gay and lesbian city employees of their health coverage was a cruel waste of everyone’s time.”

The city of New Orleans extended health insurance benefits to same-sex partners of city employees in 1997.

In 1999, the city council created a domestic partner registry that allows couples to make a public declaration to care for and support each other.

Those policies came under attack in 2002 from ADF, on behalf of a group of city taxpayers claiming a right to challenge the laws.

At the city’s request, Lambda Legal joined the lawsuit, representing gay and lesbian city employees.