Friday, July 11, 2008

Lesbian Couple Sues Blue Cross

Gay News From

Lesbian Couple Sues Blue Cross
by Newscenter Staff

Posted: July 10, 2008 - 3:00 pm ET

(Buffalo, New York) A Buffalo, New York lesbian couple is suing Blue Cross & Blue Shield accusing the insurer of contravening state policy in denying spousal benefits.

Jeanne Kornowicz and Joy Higgins were married in Ontario in 2006.

Kornowicz, a school psychologist for the Cheektowaga Central School district, applied to the school board to provide health coverage for Higgins, following a ruling in a similar case in Rochester where the court ruled that ruled New York State must recognize valid out-of-state marriages of lesbian and gay couples.

The school district approved but its insurer, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Western New York, denied the coverage.

The couple is represented by the New York Civil Liberties Union.

In its court filing the ACLU noted the Rochester ruling which the state's highest court has upheld, and a directive issued last month by Gov. David Paterson instructing state agencies - including those governing insurance and health care - to immediately change policies and regulations to recognize gay marriages performed in areas where they are legal.

The ACLU also said that unlike Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Western New York, many other New York insurers, including other insurers carrying the Blue Cross & Blue Shield name, have been recognizing same-sex couples’ valid out-of-state marriages for years.

"As spouses and parents, Jeanne and Joy deserve the same protections that every other family in New York State enjoys," said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU executive director.

"Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Western New York must follow the laws of New York State and treat them as they do every other married couple."

Kornowicz and Higgins have had a committed relationship since 1998. In April 2006 the couple married in Ontario, Canada. Higgins gave birth to the couple’s daughter, Elizabeth Higgins, in July 2007, and Kornowicz’s second-parent adoption of Elizabeth was made final in January of this year.

"All we want is for our family to be treated fairly,” Kornowicz said. “It’s heartbreaking that we need to go to court so our family can find some security."

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Western New York has not commented on the lawsuit.

Neither the Rochester ruling nor Paterson's directive allowed for same-sex couples to marry in New York. Both were limited to marriages performed only in California and Massachusetts and in countries such as Canada which have legalized gay marriage.

In 2006 the New York Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, ruled that same-sex couples do not have an automatic constitutional right to marry in the state. (story) It said that the issue, however, could be taken up by the Legislature.

Last year the Democratically-controlled New York State Assembly passed same-sex marriage legislation (story) but the GOP-controlled Senate has refused to take up the bill.

© 2008

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