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L.A. County Lesbian Couple Sues Employer For Refusing To Provide Spousal Benefits

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A photo of Judith Dominguez and Patricia Martinez, who married in 2013. (Photo courtesy of the family)
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Los Angeles County resident Judith Dominguez is suing her former employer, Cherry Creek Mortgage, for refusing to provide Dominguez and her wife with spousal health insurance coverage. The lawsuit was filed in federal court on Thursday and accuses Cherry Creek of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, as well as other equal protection laws.

In December 2016, Dominguez, 59, and her wife, Patricia Martinez, 55, were allegedly told by Cherry Creek that, as a same-sex couple, they would no longer be offered spousal health-care benefits. Dominguez worked at the Colorado-based mortgage company's Diamond Bar and Pasadena offices. Dominguez and Martinez, who married legally in Norwalk, California in 2013, were suddenly faced with $40,000 in health care bills stemming from a heart attack Martinez suffered in 2015, according to the text of the lawsuit.

Cherry Creek Mortgage's health insurance administrator, UnitedHealth Group, allegedly informed Dominguez and Martinez in January 2017 that Cherry Creek had decided not to provide spousal health insurance to the couple due to its identity as "Christian-based company," despite being aware of law requiring that same-sex married spouses be treated the same as opposite-sex married spouses.

“Cherry Creek recognizes same-sex marriages when it comes to selling mortgages to same-sex couples, so why won’t they recognize the marriage of one of their employees?” Dominguez said in a statement on Thursday.

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Dominguez is also suing Cherry Creek for unlawful use of her image, claiming that the company used her name and photo to advertise its Rancho Cucamonga location as recently as Wednesday. (The photo has since been taken down.)

LGBTQ+ Americans have faced civil rights setbacks since the 2016 election, with President Trump announcing plans in July to bar transgender individuals from military service.“Cherry Creek is trying to take advantage of the current climate to move the country and LGBT rights backwards,” said Lori Rifkin of Hadsell, Stormer & Renick, the law firm representing Dominguez and Martinez. “But federal law doesn’t allow employers to play politics on the backs of gay couples.”

LAist reached out to Cherry Creek for comment on the lawsuit, but did not immediately hear back.