Court rules unmarried heterosexual couple not entitled to state benefits

By Howard Fischer | Capitol Media Services via Arizona Capitol Times

Judge James Beene

Heterosexual couples that always have had the right to marry in Arizona are not entitled to the same benefits that the state provided to gay couples who were not at the time entitled to wed, the state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

The judges rejected claims by Renee Loncar, who worked for the state, that she should be entitled to death benefits following the death of her live-in partner Christopher Kutcher.

Judge James Beene, writing for the unanimous panel, acknowledged that Loncar would have been paid the death benefit had her partner been a woman. That is because a 2010 federal court ruling forbid the state from denying benefits to same-sex domestic partners that it provided to its married employees.

But Beene said refusing to recognize Loncar as Kutcher’s domestic partner was not illegal discrimination.

Attorney David Abney who represents Loncar said the judges missed the key point by confusing the issue with relationships and gender.

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