Women’s Law Project and ACLU fight for domestic partner benefits for Pittsburgh teacher

By Susan Frietsche, WLP Senior Staff Attorney

The Women’s Law Project has teamed up with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh attorney Fred Goldsmith to challenge the refusal of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU) to provide domestic partner benefits to employees with same-sex partners.

The plaintiff in the case is a math teacher named Bradley Ankney, who filed a civil action today in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas seeking the same health insurance and other benefits for his partner that the AIU routinely provides to its employees’ opposite-sex spouses.

Ankney has worked for the AIU for twelve years.  He teaches math at the AIU’s Regional Educational Support Center in McKees Rocks, an alternative school for students in grades 7-12 who have been temporarily excluded from their school or in transition from another school or placement.  His students are clients of the Allegheny County Juvenile Court and Children and Youth Services.

In 2009, the Allegheny County Council passed a Human Relations Act that explicitly bans employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In Pennsylvania, same-sex couples are still forbidden to marry, so conditioning employment benefits on marriage discriminates against gay and lesbian employees in violation of the County ordinance. It also violates the Pennsylvania Equal Rights Amendment, which bans discrimination on the basis of sex, because it treats employees differently based on the sex of their partners.

Ankney’s statement to the press says it all: “My partner and I are average taxpaying American citizens who happen to be gay and in a long-term respectful relationship with each other,” said Ankney. “Normally we are private individuals who do not like sharing private details of our personal lives with others, but we feel it is important to speak out regarding the AIU’s discriminatory policies.”

The Allegheny Intermediate Unit should follow the lead of the many other school districts in Allegheny County that provide benefits to employees with same-sex domestic partners, including Upper St Clair, Keystone Oaks, Allegheny Valley, West Mifflin and Fox Chapel.

Ankney is represented by Sara Rose of the ACLU-PA, Susan Frietsche and Tara Pfeifer of the Women’s Law Project, and Fred Goldsmith of the law firm Goldsmith & Ogrodowski, LLC.  You can see a copy of the complaint or visit our web site for more information.

About womenslawproject

The Women's Law Project creates a more just and equitable society by advancing the rights and status of all women throughout their lives. To this end, we engage in high-impact litigation, advocacy, and education.
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