State spends $93K on same-sex benefits legal case

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- The state has spent a little more than $93,000 on legal fees to take health care benefits away from same-sex couples who work for the government.

According to the Arizona Attorney General's office, four lawyers have spent close to 1,300 hours working on the case that Gov. Jan Brewer is trying to take the U.S. Supreme Court. The hourly rate for the state attorneys ranged from about $48 per hour to $60 per hour.

The AG's office made the costs available Friday afternoon. This comes several weeks after the governor added new life the debate over domestic partnership benefits for gay and lesbian couples.

Brewer filed a legal brief at the beginning of the month asking the High Court to hear the case. Brewer and the GOP controlled Legislature tried taking away benefits in 2009.

But a federal judge ruled that Arizona couldn't do that. Currently, there are about 230 state employees who get state medical coverage for themselves and their same sex-partners.

This costs the state about $1.9 million, according to the Arizona Department of Administration. The Supreme Court will likely decide whether to take the case in the fall.

If the justices take it on, the legal costs could skyrocket. The legal tab to defend Arizona controversial immigration law, SB 1070, ran into the millions