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Brighton Heights teacher sues for same-sex partner benefits

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Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, 12:45 p.m.
 

A math teacher for the Allegheny Intermediate Unit filed a civil lawsuit on Tuesday against his employer because it won't provide his same-sex partner health care benefits.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and the Women's Law Project filed the lawsuit in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas on behalf of Bradley A. Ankney, 47, of Brighton Heights.

They are seeking a permanent injunction ordering the AIU to provide the same benefits to gay couples as they offer to heterosexual couples.

“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, who works at the AIU's Regional Education Support Center in McKees Rocks, an alternative school for students in grades 7-12 who have been temporarily excluded from their school or are transitioning from another school or placement. “Normally, we are private individuals who do not like sharing details of our personal lives with others, but we feel it is important to speak out regarding the AIU's discriminatory policies.”

Sarah McCluan, a spokeswoman for the AIU, referred calls to the organization's attorney, Bill Andrews, who did not return a call.

According to the complaint, Ankney and his partner of 15 years share a home, have two dogs, travel together and provide mutual caring support to one another.

“But because Ankney and his partner are both men, Ankney is unable to take advantage of the many benefits that the AIU provides to its employees with opposite-sex partners, including health insurance for employees' spouses and time off to care for a spouse who is sick,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit is based on violations of the Allegheny County Human Relations Act, an ordinance enacted by the county in 2009, and the Pennsylvania Equal Rights Amendment, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.

Many other school districts in Allegheny County provide benefits to employees with same-sex domestic partners, including Upper St Clair, Keystone Oaks, Allegheny Valley, West Mifflin and Fox Chapel, according to the ACLU. Because those districts are part of the same health care consortium as the AIU, it could provide benefits to employees with same-sex partners but has chosen not to, attorneys representing Ankney said.

Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or abrandolph@tribweb.com.

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