A 57-year-old subway car operator from Astoria, N.Y., is suing New York City's Metropolitan Transit Authority to extend health-care benefits to his same-sex partner of 20 years, New York's Newsday reports. James Reilly hopes his lawsuit will help bring a greater acceptance to gay men and lesbians in blue-collar jobs. "I'm a high school dropout," says Reilly, who steers the N and W trains, "but I do know the differences between right and wrong. I'm not going to stop till he's covered, and if I have to go to the United States Supreme Court, I will."
Reilly, who first started engineering subway cars in 1970, later worked as a public advocate for the New York city council, where his partner, 50-year-old George Brennan, was eligible for health benefits. When he returned to the MTA in 2001, he says, he thought Brennan would automatically be covered by his health insurance plan, but he wasn't. Although same-sex partners of city employees are entitled to domestic-partner benefits, the MTA argues that it isn't required to provide the benefits because it is an independent agency, separate from the city and state.
Regardless of what the court ends up saying on the issue, Reilly and Brennan may get the benefits as a result of a new contract currently before the 34,000 members of the Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union. Union votes for the new contract, which will extend health benefits to the domestic partners of union members, will be tallied January 21.