Could a lawsuit against privately-held Little Caesars Pizza turn into another Hobby Lobby "religious freedom" case? Star attorney Gloria Allred and her client, who is in a same-sex marriage, are about to find out.
A California man is suing Little Caesars Pizza, claiming the company refused to give his husband healthcare. Frank Bernard was a trainee manager but quit when the number three pizza chain sent him a letter describing their benefits policy regarding spouses.
A spouse, the letter purportedly stated, is "the one person to whom you are legally married under the laws of the state in which you reside, including common law spouse, and who is the opposite gender from you."
Bernard, 47, married his husband in California during the short period in 2008 before voters passed Prop 8, when about 18,000 same-sex couples married. Those marriages were declared legal by the California courts.
"I didn't want anything special, I just wanted the same benefits package as heterosexual couples," Reuters reports Bernard said at a Los Angeles news conference.
The Supreme Court ruled separately last year that same-sex married couples were entitled to spousal benefits available under federal law, striking down provisions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. But that decision did not extend to benefits private companies provide to their employees.
"With this lawsuit we look forward to expanding the employment rights and benefits for legally married same sex couples," Bernard's attorney, Gloria Allred, told reporters.
Could Little Caesars, a privately-owned company, claim they are merely following their deeply-held religious beliefs by denying healthcare to same-gender spouses?
Little Caesars is owned by Mike and Marian Ilitch, through Ilitch Holdings. Mike Ilitch also owns the NHL's Detroit Red Wings and Major League Baseball's Detroit Tigers. The family is reportedly worth $3.8 billion.
Image by Robert Rowe via Flickr