A court has ruled that the US state of Arizona must continue to pay spouse health benefits to gay and lesbian government workers.

The state began granting the benefits in 2008 but a 2009 law sought to remove them.

Yesterday, three judges at the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld a lower court’s ruling that the law should be blocked.

They said that the law would violate the state’s Constitution.

Judges wrote: “When a state chooses to provide such benefits, it may not do so in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner that adversely affects particular groups that may be unpopular.”

The law had blocked health benefits for partners of gay employees and straight unmarried employees. However, heterosexual workers could restore their benefits by getting married.

Arizona does not allow gay couples to wed.