Saturday, May 22, 2004

Nonsense on anti-civil union law from the Norfolk paper

This article from the Norfolk paper targets the new anti-same sex partnership statute in Virginia, with the suggestion that it would "invalidate . . . insurance benefits" for some people in Virginia effective July 1.

Opposite the comments of Delegate Marshall who supported the new law, the article juxtaposes the views of a law professor inaptly-named Pagan, who had nothing good to say about the statute, and predicted mayhem in the personal lives of some people until it is thrown out.

This article strikes me as bad reporting, more sensational than substantive. This statute will have real effects on real people, and it will be challenged in court, but I'm not sure that this article gets to the heart of the matter. On health insurance, for example, as Professor Pagan notes, "[s]tate law already blocks insurance companies licensed to do business in Virginia from covering same-sex partners or their children." Has there been a constitutional challenge to the existing law? If there are employers with self-insurance schemes that work around the existing law to provide same-sex benefits, who would have standing to complain about the legality of these benefits under the new law, and wouldn't the issue be the enforceability of the contract between employer and employee, not any kind of same-sex union contract? I don't see how the application of the new law to health benefits is ever going to be an issue that will get to court.

What I would be interested to know is how will the legal challenges to the statute be litigated. As Professor Pagan indicates, there probably cannot be any constitutional challenges brought in federal court until some state actor does something bad to somebody. A equal protection claim brought today in federal court would likely be dismissed for lack of standing or lack of ripeness or something like that.

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