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New York same-sex couple sues hospital for spousal benefits

An anonymous same-sex couple in New York on Tuesday filed a class-action lawsuit [complaint, PDF] against Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield [corporate website] and a New York hospital seeking to compel the hospital to provide spousal healthcare benefits. The hospital, St. Joseph's Medical Center [official website], is a Catholic institution that has a policy against providing benefits to same-sex couples. The two women, one of whom works for the hospital, are legally married in New York. They maintain that the hospital's policy, which specifically denies benefits to same-sex couples, is discriminatory and unconstitutional. The couple is seeking an injunction preventing the hospital from enforcing its ban on providing benefits to same sex couples,and an order compelling the hospital to provide past and future benefits to couples affected by the ban.

Same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] continues to be a controversial issue in the US. Earlier this month, opponents of Maryland's new same-sex marriage law obtained enough signatures to challenge the legislation in a referendum [JURIST report]. An advocacy group in Washington presented more than 200,000 referendum signatures earlier that week seeking to overturn [JURIST report] recently signed same-sex marriage legislation in that state. In May, 25 gay and lesbian couples filed two lawsuits against Illinois Governor Pat Quinn challenging the constitutionality [JURIST report] of the state's same-sex marriage ban. In March, Maryland legalized same-sex marriage, joining New York, Washington, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia [JURIST reports]. On the other hand, North Carolina voters in May approved [JURIST report] a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

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