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Calif. man sues Little Caesars pizza maker for denying health benefits to same-sex spouses

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By Daina Beth Solomon

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A former trainee manager at Little Caesars pizza in California sued the company for discrimination on Wednesday, accusing the Detroit-based chain of denying employees health insurance benefits for their legally wed same-sex spouses.

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The lawsuit was brought in state Superior Court in Orange County, regional headquarters for the nation’s third-largest pizza chain, by Frank Bernard, 47, who said he quit his job after Little Caesars refused to extend coverage to his husband of six years.

“I didn’t want anything special, I just wanted the same benefits package as heterosexual couples,” Bernard said at a news conference in Los Angeles.

The lawsuit names Little Caesars Enterprises and its parent company, Ilitch Holdings, as defendants, accusing them of discriminating against Bernard on the basis of his sexual orientation, in violation of California law.

It cites a letter Little Caesars presented Bernard explaining a benefits policy that defined “spouse” as “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.”

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The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages and a court order requiring the company to treat gay and straight married workers equally in providing employment benefits.

Neither Little Caesars nor Ilitch Holdings responded to requests for comment on the case.

Bernard and his partner were among some 18,000 gay and lesbian California couples who married in 2008 during a five-month window between a state Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex matrimony and passage of Proposition 8 banning it in November of that year.

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Those marriages were later upheld by the courts as legally recognized, and last June the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for gay marriages to resume in California for good, after Prop 8 was struck down as unconstitutional.

Same-sex marriage remains banned in Michigan under a voter-approved law there, though a federal judge has declared that measure unconstitutional in a case now under appeal.

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.

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“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.

Little Caesars opened its first outlet in Garden City, Michigan, in 1959. It ranked as the third-largest pizza chain behind Pizza Hut and Domino’s, with 2012 sales of $2.9 billion, according to Nation’s Restaurant News, an industry magazine.

(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon; Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

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[Image via Little Caesars Pizza official Facebook page]

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

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‘It’s always dread with President Trump’: CNN analyst says G7 leaders are revolted they have to meet with Trump again

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On Thursday's edition of CNN's "The Situation Room," reporter Abby Phillip said that world leaders are feeling "dread" about the prospect of meeting with President Donald Trump after his latest round of erratic behavior on the world stage.

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92% of HPV-caused cancers could be prevented by vaccine: health authority

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Human papillomavirus was responsible for an estimated yearly average of 34,800 cancer cases between 2012 and 2016, according to a new study published by the CDC, meaning that more than 32,100 cases could have been avoided annually.

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