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Washington panel rules federal law blocks gay civil rights bid for health care benefits

[JURIST] The Washington State Human Rights Commission [official website] determined Friday that a heterosexual woman could not use the state's gay civil rights law [text, PDF; JURIST report] to secure health care benefits for her male partner because a federal law on the topic trumps the state law. Sandi Scott-Moore filed a claim in August arguing that her employer discriminated against her by not providing health care benefits for her male partner while providing benefits for the partners of gay and lesbian co-workers.

The legislation, which rewrote Washington's Civil Rights Act to include the phrase "sexual orientation" among the classes of people protected from housing discrimination, lending, and employment, was signed [JURIST report] by Governor Christine Gregoire last January, making Washington the seventeenth state in the nation with an anti-discrimination law that covers sexual orientation. Scott-Moore's case was one of the first to test the new law, but the Human Rights Commission determined that it did not have jurisdiction because the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act [text] governs health care plans and supersedes the state statute. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has more.

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