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Teacher Sues AIU After Being Denied Benefits for Same-Sex Partner

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Women’s Law Project have filed a lawsuit against the Allegheny Intermediate Unit on behalf of Bradley Ankney, a math teacher for the AIU.

The suit was filed after the AIU rejected Ankney’s attempt to add his partner to his health insurance policy.

Sarah Rose, staff attorney for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said the AIU does provide benefits to the spouses of employees.

“As we all know in Pennsylvania, same-sex couples do not have the freedom to marry currently," Rose said. "So in the meantime, we think it’s important that employers provide benefits, especially benefits as important and costly as health insurance to their employees on an equal basis.”

The AIU, which offers special-education services at 42 school districts and five vocational-technical schools, has more than 1,800 employees. Rose said she doesn’t know how many of those school districts offer benefits to employees’ same-sex partners, but Upper Saint Clair, Keystone Oaks, Allegheny Valley, Fox Chapel and West Mifflin school districts do as well as the Steel Center Vo-Tech Center. 

The suit is based on a 2009 Allegheny County ordinance that prohibits discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation. 

“Given the availability of these benefits to the AIU, the fact that Allegheny County has a nondiscrimination ordinance (and) the AIU has its own nondiscrimination policy, Brad looked at this and thought their refusal to provide benefits to me just doesn’t add up,” Rose said.

Ankney has worked for the AIU for 12 years and teaches math at the Regional Educational Support Center in McKees Rocks, an alternative school for students in grades 7 through 12. He and his partner have been together for 15 years.

“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,” Ankney said via a news release.

Rose said they tried to resolve the dispute to avoid going to court. 

“We asked them to rethink their policy of not providing benefits to employees’ same sex partners and to allow Brad to add his partner to his health insurance policy and unfortunately the AIU refused and that’s why we have filed this case,” she said.

Requests to the Allegheny Intermediate Unit for response were directed to its solicitor, Bill Andrews, who had not returned calls at the time of publication.

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm