GLAD Wins Case Establishing Sexual Orientation Discrimination Against N. H. State Employees
May 5, 2006—Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) today applauded a decision by the New Hampshire Merrimack Superior Court that the New Hampshire Community Technical College System is committing sexual orientation discrimination when it denies benefits to the partners of gay or lesbian employees. The decision can be seen as a mandate for the state to provide benefits to the partners of all state employees.
“This case is about equal pay for equal work,” said Karen Loewy, GLAD staff attorney. “As long same-sex partners are excluded from marriage, an employer cannot use marriage as an eligibility as requirement for benefits. It’s simply not fair.”
Patricia Beford holds son Christopher
Bedford & Breen vs. New Hampshire State Technical College System originated with Patricia Bedford and Anne Breen. Ms. Bedford, a nine-year employee of the college system, is Director of Student Services. She and Vivian Knezevich, her partner of 14 years, live in Concord with their 3year-old son Christopher. Ms. Breen, who has worked at the college for 16 years, is Director of Security. She and Kathleen Doyle, her partner of 28 years, live in Salisbury with their 10-year-old son Matthew.
“I’m very happy with the decision and that I’ll be able to provide my family the same benefits and protections that my married colleagues can,” said Anne Breen. “Like anyone with a job, I think it is fair to received the same compensation as my co-workers for doing the same work.”
“Now I’ll be able to cover my partner with health insurance, take time to care for her when she’s sick, or, God forbid, use bereavement leave if I should ever need it,” said Patricia Bedford.
The decision reverses a prior New Hampshire Commission for Human Rights’ finding of no probable cause in claims brought by two state employees who filed sexual orientation discrimination claims. GLAD appealed to the New Hampshire Superior Court of Ms. Bedford and Ms. Breen.
The Court’s reversal of the Commission states, “New Hampshire Law prohibits marriage between persons of the same sex and does not otherwise provide a means for same-sex couples to legally sanction their committed relationships…Thus, same-sex partners have no ability to ever qualify for the same employment benefits unmarried heterosexual couples may avail themselves of by deciding to legally commit to each other through marriage.”
Quotes from the decision in Bedford & Breen vs. NH State Technical College System:
“Lesbian and gay employees are adversely impacted because, unlike heterosexuals, they cannot meet the marriage requirement. The State’s attempt to couch the issue as one wherein all unmarried individuals are impacted equally, avoids that reality.”
“New Hampshire Law prohibits marriage between persons of the same sex and does not otherwise provide a means for same-sex couples to legally sanction their committed relationships…Thus, same-sex partners have no ability to ever qualify for the same employment benefits unmarried heterosexual couples may avail themselves of by deciding to legally commit to each other through marriage.”
Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) is New England's leading legal rights organization dedcated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status and gender identity and expression. Since 1978, through impact litigation and public education, GLAD has worked to create a bettter world for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender individuals and people living with HIV.
Visit the GLAD website to learn more. They offer a helpful legal information line to learn about the laws that protect you in your state: 1.800.455.GLAD Monday through Friday, between 1:30-4:30pm EST.