City Sued Over Gay Partners' Benefits

Two conservative, religious groups sued Cambridge this week over its ordinance that extends rights and benefits usually reserved for family members to gay and lesbian partners of city workers.

The suit, filed jointly by the Catholic Action League and the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a conservative legal group, claims that the 1992 ordinance is both inconsistent with state law and unconstitutional.

Currently, domestic partners have health insurance benefits, hospital and jail visitation rights and access to confidential records that other friends do not.

The two groups can only challenge the health care provisions of the ordinance. Under Massachusetts law, citizens can only raise complaints about how their money is spent.

Last July, in response to a suit filed by the same two groups, the Massachusetts Supreme Court struck down Mayor Thomas A Menino's executive order that extended city health benefits to same-sex couples.

The current suit says that the Cambridge ordinance is inconsistent with a 1955 state law that limits city health insurance benefits to "spouses, those under 19, and those over 19 who cannot care for themselves."

It also claims that this inconsistency is unconstitutional under the "home rule amendment" of the state constitution which states that local laws may not conflict with the state constitution or state laws.

Gary D. Buseck, Executive Director of Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, a gay rights legal advocate group, described the suit against Cambridge as "essentially the same" as the July suit against Boston.