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Four day trial anticipated in challenge to exclusion of same-sex spouses from Arizona’s domestic partnership benefits for state employees

LGBT Legal Cases

A four-day trial is anticipated in federal court in Arizona over the state’s law, signed by Governor Jan Brewer, that was designed to take away domestic partnership benefits from state employees in same-sex relationships. Arizona bans same-sex marriage, and the law at issue in the case would only allow benefits for spouses, meaning that same-sex spouses of state employees who were once covered by administrative rules would be disallowed from seeking these benefits. Lambda Legal filed suit in federal court alleging that the law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The case is Diaz v. Brewer.

The issue had already reached the Supreme Court in the challenge’s preliminary stages: a preliminary injunction put the law on hold pending trial and appeals, and Governor Brewer petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the preliminary injunction so that benefits would cease for same-sex couples pending a final decision on the merits. The Court held the petition pending resolution of United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry, but then declined to review Brewer’s petition the next day. This leaves benefits for same-sex couples intact while the trial proceeds.

In a scheduling and planning conference report filed Tuesday after lawyers involved in the case met to reach an agreement on how to proceed, the parties noted that a four-day trial is anticipated and discovery on “the factual bases of Plaintiffs’ claims, and the factual bases of any governmental interests that any Defendant may advance as a rationale for the exclusion of Plaintiffs from family health coverage, and any other defenses that Defendants may raise” is necessary to resolve the issues.

According to the plaintiffs’ and state’s lawyers, the case is expected go on well into 2014, with proposed motions for summary judgment (i.e., on the merits) to be filed by September 15, 2014. Discovery of facts and expert witnesses would be finalized in the months preceding the September date for final motions.

As this was a planning conference report following a meeting between the attorneys involved in the case, there’s no proposed date for the trial. The filing says, “[t]he scheduling order will make provision for pretrial conferences, certification of the case as ready for trial, and a final pretrial order.” The judge is expected to issue the final scheduling order, which is likely to closely track the proposed timeline.

Thanks to Kathleen Perrin for this filing

2:09-cv-02402 #74 by EqualityCaseFiles

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