[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled [text, PDF] Tuesday that House Bill 2013 [text, PDF], a law rescinding health benefits for same-sex couples in the public sector, is in violation of the equal protection clause of the Constitution. The ruling upholds an injunction issued by a district court that has temporarily reinstated these benefits, although the law itself has not fully been ruled on in state courts. The three judge-panel echoed many of the district court’s sentiments, rejecting arguments from the state of Arizona that the case created an unequivocal right to health care and that the law was not rationally related to promoting marriage nor did it significantly balance the budget:
Defendants nevertheless contend on appeal that this law is rationally related to the state’s interests in cost savings and reducing administrative burdens. As the district court observed, however, the savings depend upon distinguishing between homosexual and heterosexual employees, similarly situated, and such a distinction cannot survive rational basis review.
A representative for Governor Jan Brewer (R) [official website] said they are considering appealing the ruling [Arizona Republic report] and that the court had created an inequality by making it impossible to eliminate benefits for same-sex couples, but permissible to eliminate them for opposite sex couples.
A 2008 executive order from then-governor Janet Napolitano expanded health care benefits to all domestic partners of government employees, gay or straight. The next year, Brewer passed House Bill 2013 in the midst of a state budget crisis, which revoked health care benefits to domestic partners and children still on their parents’ plan. However, the law was only enforced on homosexual domestic partners, and came into effect in January 2011. Arizona banned same-sex marriage [JURIST report] in 2008.