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AZ Slashes Partner Benefits for 800 Workers


Arizona governor Jan Brewer recently signed a bill into law that will rescind health benefits to domestic partners of approximately 800 state employees. The policy redefines who a dependent can be, which now excludes domestic partners, children of domestic partners, disabled adult dependents, and children of state workers older than 23 years old who are full-time students.

"At least they're equal-opportunity haters," state representative Kirsten Sinema told on Friday. "It's not just gay people, it's straight people, and disabled people, and unmarried couples."

Out of the 800 involved, Sinema said that same-sex couples do not make up the majority of those affected.

The state pays $3 million to cover domestic partners, in comparison to $625 million to cover other employees and their dependents.

"This was not done to save the state money," Sinema said. "It was done because the current legislature believes that this group of individuals should not have health care provided by the state."

When asked why the governor would sanction such a policy change during difficult economic times, a spokesperson for her office said the line wasn't in her original proposal to the legislature.

"[The] governor's budget proposal was not supported by some Democratic and some Republican legislators," the statement said. "This was in fact a legislative budget proposal, and it was ultimately contained within a piece of budget legislation sent to the governor that had numerous spending items that were critical to state operations."

As recently as September 17, Brewer, who replaced now-secretary of Homeland Defense Janet Napolitano, has been quoted as telling a group of pastors at a Lutheran church that she believed "God has placed" her in "this powerful position" to lead her state. She is also known to suggest that staffers pray on an issue to find solutions, according to the Arizona Star.

The legislation is in legal review to determine when the benefits will change. Sinema said the bill legally cannot go into effect until November 24 -- 90 days after Brewer signed it.

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