Obama Administration defending DOMA in San Francisco case
San Francisco GateThe Obama administration refused Friday to follow a federal judge's order to provide insurance benefits to the wife of a lesbian court employee in San Francisco and said its hands were tied by a discriminatory law.
This story below, is in direct conflict with this Now Public story by this author, last night.
I am a bit confused as to what bill the House Senate Committee passed 8-1 this past week, which allows for all federal civilian employees to receive family benefits "regardless of orientation", and how this would apply to the story below, in which the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 (DOMA) is being invoked as a brake.
I do intend to research and get to the bottom of the issue.
From San Francisco Gate, the Obama Administration has claimed that its hands are tied by a discriminatory law ( which would be DOMA, one assumes) and that it cannot allow a federal judge to order the providing of insurance benefits to a wife of a lesbian court employee in San Francisco.
The Obama Administration has no plans to repeal DOMA, (Defense of Marriage Act) it is stated, and continues to defend DOMA in a suit brought by Massachusetts gay couples.
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Obama administration refused Friday to follow a federal judge's order to provide insurance benefits to the wife of a lesbian court employee in San Francisco and said its hands were tied by a discriminatory law.
"This issue shows exactly why Congress needs to repeal" the law, which prohibits federal benefits to same-sex couples, government lawyer Elaine Kaplan said in a message to attorneys for court employee Karen Golinski.
One of Golinski's lawyers, Jenny Pizer of the gay-rights group Lambda Legal, said Kaplan's response was "something we might have expected from the Bush or Reagan administration, and not from a 'fierce advocate' of LBGT rights," as President Obama has described himself.
The case is one of two in which the Office of Personnel Management has balked at orders by judges on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to provide coverage to the same-sex spouses of federal employees.
Golinski, a staff attorney at the appeals court's headquarters, married her partner, Amy Cunninghis, after the state Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in California in May 2008. The court preserved 18,000 such marriages this May while upholding Proposition 8, the November 2008 ballot measure that undid the earlier ruling.
Golinski applied in September 2008 to include Cunninghis in the family insurance policy, which already covered the couple's 6-year-old son. Court officials refused, citing the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.
The appeals court's chief judge, Alex Kozinski, who hears administrative cases involving court staff, ruled in January that the law governing federal employee benefits allows insurance coverage for anyone legally married in her home state. When the Office of Personnel Management disagreed, Kozinski ordered the agency last month to comply.
Another Ninth Circuit judge, Stephen Reinhardt, whose decision to grant family coverage to a gay federal public defender was similarly thwarted, has ordered the defender's office to reimburse the lawyer for the cost of buying insurance for his husband.
Kaplan told Golinski's attorneys that the Justice Department had reviewed her case and concluded the Defense of Marriage Act prohibited insurance coverage. Kozinski's order is not binding on the agency, Kaplan said, because he was acting as an administrative hearing officer and not as a judge.
"The administration believes that this law is discriminatory" and supports legislation to grant benefits to federal workers' domestic partners, Kaplan said.
The administration is not sponsoring legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, however, and is defending the law in a suit by same-sex married couples in Massachusetts.
If the administration continues to deny coverage, Pizer said, Golinski will sue in court.