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The same-sex partner of a flight attendant killed in a jet crash more than three years ago asked a New York court Wednesday to award him workers’ compensation benefits similar to those approved for domestic partners of victims of the 2001 terror attacks. Attorney Adam Aronson told the court that William Valentine and Joe Lopes had done everything they could to legalize their 21-year relationship before Lopes died in the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 in November 2001. The Airbus A300-600 lost its tail shortly after takeoff from John F. Kennedy International Airport and plunged into the ground, killing all 260 people aboard and five on the ground. The state Workers Compensation Board denied benefits to Valentine in 2003. After two hijacked jetliners hit the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, the state Legislature approved an amendment to the workers’ compensation law to provide a special death benefit “for domestic partners” of those killed who had no spouse. According to Aronson, Valentine and Lopes were committed spouses and had registered in New York as domestic partners in 1994. While the men did not have a state marriage license, they easily met the terms applied to heterosexual couples for common-law marriages, he said. Assistant Attorney General Julie Sheridan told the court the workers’ compensation board applies the term “legal spouse to restrict the class of spouses who can get death benefits.” The distinction is based on neither gender nor sexual orientation because the board also applies it to heterosexual couples, she said. It was unclear when the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court would rule on the matter. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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