Two lesbian police officers in Baltimore County, Md., were awarded the right to extend their health benefits to their spouses Tuesday after having been initially denied those benefits by the county.
An independent arbiter ruled that veteran officers Margaret Selby and Juanika Ballard must be granted health benefits for their respective wives. Each of the officers married their spouses in different states during the summer of 2009.
Both officers filed separate grievances with the county in August 2010 when the county started deducting premiums from their paychecks for spousal coverage, The Baltimore Sun reports.
While wife Monica Williams was by Ballard's side as she recovered from a car accident, Ballard was denied bereavement leave when Williams's father died in June 2009. Though they had wed in Connecticut, she was denied the time off and had to use accrued vacation time to be with her wife and her family. Ballard is now due to give birth to twins in April.
"My wife Monica, like other police officers' spouses, worries that I will be hurt in the line of duty," Ballard said in a statement. "No one can predict the future, but these benefits provide the safety net that other married couples have."
Selby has been with her wife for almost years, and wed in Massachusetts in August 2009. Selby and her wife raised two daughters together.
"I've put my life on the line to protect the people of Baltimore County," Selby said in a Lambda Legal statement. "Like all my fellow officers, I need spousal benefits so that I can protect my family."
Susan Sommer of Lambda Legal represented the women along with the Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 4.
"We are glad that these officers can finally rest assured that they can receive equal benefits to protect their families," added Sommer, "but every married same-sex couple shouldn't need a lawyer to secure the protections their co-workers can take for granted. Until Maryland establishes marriage equality, families like these will continue to be vulnerable to discrimination."
A county spokesman told the Sun that officials were evaluating the 10-page decision from the arbiter to determine whether they would appeal.