Same-Sex Couple Sues Blue Cross and Catholic Hospital
Monday, June 25, 2012
Two unnamed women are suing Blue Cross and St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Westchester County in New York state over the Catholic hospital’s refusal to grant benefits to same-sex couples. One of the women is an employee of the hospital.
The lawsuit represents the first challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) involving a private hospital, which has used the anti-gay marriage law to justify its policy of denying benefits to homosexual couples. Signed into law by President Bill Clinton on September 21, 1996, DOMA defines the word “marriage” as “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.”
Same-sex marriages are legal in New York State. But private institutions like St. Joseph are governed by federal, not state law. The plaintiffs in the suit have been together for 16 years and married last year.
Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield was named a defendant in the suit because it administers the hospital’s health plan.
The litigation follows the Obama administration’s decision last year to no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court, saying the law is unconstitutional.
That decision angered leaders in the Catholic Church who warned that religious-based institutions may decide to shut down instead of being forced to adopt policies they consider immoral.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
To Learn More:
Employee Sues for Benefits to Cover Same-Sex Spouse (by Sharon Otterman, New York Times)
Class of Same-Sex Spouses Sues Blue Cross (by Kevin Koeninger, Courthouse News Service)
Jane Roe and Jane Doe v. Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield (U.S. District Court, Southern New York) (pdf)
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