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Same-sex partner seeks workers comp survivor benefits in Alaska case

Same-sex partner seeks workers comp survivor benefits in Alaska case

An Alaska woman is seeking workers compensation survivor benefits based on her relationship with her same-sex partner of more than a decade who was murdered at work late last year.

Attorneys for Deborah Harris argue that it is unconstitutional for Alaska to prevent Ms. Harris from receiving benefits that she would be awarded if she had been allowed to marry her partner, Kerry Fadely, according to a filing obtained through Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund Inc. The civil rights organization, which is representing Ms. Harris, submitted the filing Monday to the Alaska Workers' Compensation Board.

The comp board filing notes that Alaska's workers comp board and workers comp commission are unable to decide issues of constitutionality. However, it says that the appeal has been filed “to preserve the factual context of (Ms. Harris') constitutional challenge” so that it ultimately can be reviewed by the Alaska Supreme Court.

Ms. Fadely worked as a hotel manager for the Millennium Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska, according to filing. In October 2011, Ms. Fadely was shot and killed by a former hotel employee who had been fired by Ms. Fadely nine days earlier, court records show.

Ms. Fadely and Ms. Harris were in an “exclusive, committed and financially interdependent relationship” for more than a decade at the time of her death, according to court filings. Ms. Harris noted in the filings that she and Ms. Fadely referred to each other as spouses, though Alaska law prevents them from being legally married.

Millennium Hotel is paying death benefits to Ms. Fadely's 23-year-old son, records show. Ms. Harris says in her filing that the son “is supportive of my claim and believes that (Ms. Fadely) would have been supportive as well.”