Appointee resigns over Arizona governor’s appeal to eliminate partner benefits

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Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer wants to eliminate domestic partner benefits for state workers.

A gay man appointed to Arizona’s tourism council has resigned his post. He’s protesting Gov. Jan Brewer’s appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn an injunction blocking the state from eliminating domestic partnership benefits for gay state employees.

Edwin Leslie resigned this week in a two-page letter reported in the Arizona Republic. Leslie, who works in the hospitality industry, said Brewer’s move hurts tourism and stands “in direct conflict with your reiteration that all Americans are entitled to the same ‘inalienable rights.’”

“My decision to resign the tourism council is rooted in the fiber of my conscience,” Leslie wrote. “The LGBT community, of which I am a proud part, deserves all of the same rights, privileges and liberties as every American, be it in domestic partner benefits, adoption, marriage or any other rights that are so freely enjoyed by every other person in the US. It is my hope that one day The State of Arizona leads the nation in extending benefits to LGBT families, allowing same sex marriage and adoption, and show that everyone is welcome in Arizona.”

A spokesman for the governor told the Republic that Leslie’s resignation was regrettable “and it's even more regrettable that he has opted to politicize that decision in this manner. The governor doesn't believe in ceding to a federal court the authority of Arizona's duly elected officials (to make budget decisions).”

The Republican governor is perhaps best known on a national level as the defender of Arizona’s controversial “show me your papers” anti-immigrant law.

Brewer, in an appeal filed on July 2, is asking the High Court to overturn rulings from a trial court and an appeals court that require the state to continue domestic partner benefits to Arizona’s state employees.

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office is representing Brewer in the push to reverse the rulings.

Lambda Legal has represented the employees defending the partnership benefits and will have until Aug. 6 to respond to the High Court.

The legal battle goes back to at least 2009, when Arizona lawmakers passed a law to strip gay and lesbian employees of domestic partnership benefits.

Lambda, on behalf of 10 employees, sued to block enforcement of the law and argued that if state officials strip domestic partner health benefits from lesbian and gay government workers, they violate the U.S. Constitution.

Lambda filed its suit in November 2009 and a district court judge issued a preliminary injunction in July 2010. A Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel upheld the injunction in September 2011 and a request from Arizona for a full panel review was denied in April.

This denial is what prompted Arizona to turn to the Supreme Court, which is on summer break.

A court has not offered a final decision on the case.

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