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ACLU sues state over same-sex retiree benefits


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.--The American Civil Liberties Union is suing New Mexico on behalf of three lesbian couples who are seeking retirement health benefits for the domestic partners of all lesbian and gay state employees.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Bernalillo County Court, charges that the state's policy of denying lesbian and gay state retirees equal health insurance for their domestic partners violates the state constitution's equality guarantees. Lesbian and gay employees are barred from marrying in the state and, therefore, in the absence of domestic partner benefits, are denied equal compensation, the suit asserts.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson issued an executive order in 2003 providing domestic partner benefits to active state employees, both gay and heterosexual. However, the order does not apply to retirement health benefits, which are available to the spouses of retired state employees. Legislation is pending that would expand retiree health benefits to also include domestic partners.