On June 10, 2015, Riggan Law Firm, LLC, a St. Louis employment law firm, filed a federal court lawsuit on behalf of its clients, Plaintiffs Andrew Bone and Christopher Bone, against the St. Charles County (Missouri) Ambulance District, in order to seek legal redress for the District's policy of denying insurance and other benefits to the same-sex spouses of District employees. The lawsuit alleges that the District's policy violates the Plaintiffs' Constitutional rights to Equal Protection and Due Process under federal law.
Plaintiff Andrew Bone has been employed by the District as a paramedic from September 2008 to the present. He and his husband Christopher Bone, who are residents of the State of Missouri, were married in California in September 2014 and have a valid marriage certificate from California. Christopher Bone recently lost his job and insurance, and Andrew Bone subsequently sought spousal health, dental, vision and life insurance coverage through the "Life Event Change" provisions of the District's employee insurance plan. Shortly thereafter, Andrew Bone was informed that his application for Life Event Change had been approved, and that his husband Christopher Bone was being added to Andrew's insurance plan as a dependent. However, a few days later, Andrew Bone was informed by the District that "[a]fter further review" his application for spousal insurance coverage was being denied because the District "must follow the insurance laws of the State and at this time the State of Missouri does not recognize same sex and common-law marriages."
According to the lawsuit, the District's reason for denying the spousal benefits is based on an erroneous interpretation of the law. In the 2014 case of Barrier v. Vasterling, a Missouri state court declared that Missouri's statutory and constitutional provisions that deny legal recognition to the marriages of same-sex couples violate the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and issued a permanent injunction barring their enforcement. The State of Missouri, through Governor Jeremiah (Jay) Nixon and Attorney General Chris Koster, in their official capacities, was a party to the proceedings and is therefore bound by the injunction and declaratory judgment. The defendants in Barrier declined to appeal, and the Barrier decision is now the law for all government subdivisions of the State of Missouri.
The lawsuit also alleges that the District's health insurance plan, through Anthem BlueCross BlueShield, states that "[n]o person who is eligible to enroll will be refused enrollment based on health status, health care needs, genetic information, previous medical information, disability, sexual orientation or identity, gender or age." (emphasis added). Also, the District's contract and memorandum of understanding with Plaintiff Andrew Bone's Union states that "[t]he District further agrees to maintain and pay for 100% of the costs of said level of health insurance for employee dependents, if needed." The Union contract further states as follows:
The Union and District agree to be non-discriminatory in all phases of employer and employee relationships including hiring, promotion, discharge, pay and fringe benefits, on the basis of race, age, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin or disability, in accordance with applicable law. (emphasis added).
The lawsuit alleges that despite Missouri's recognition of Plaintiffs' marriage following the Barrier decision, and despite the language prohibiting discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation in the District's own employee insurance plan and Union contract, the District refuses to recognize Plaintiffs' marriage and refuses to provide Plaintiffs the same spousal benefits provided to the District's other employees and their spouses. The lawsuit seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorneys' fees/costs.
According to its website, the St. Charles County Ambulance District is the largest district in Missouri, serving all of St. Charles County and its population of nearly 370,000, and it provides emergency and non-emergency care and transportation in St. Charles County, Missouri.
To read a copy of the lawsuit, click here.