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Federal employee sues for same-sex spouse health benefits

[JURIST] A federal employee filed suit [complaint, PDF] on Wednesday against the federal government seeking to add her same-sex spouse to her family health insurance plan. Lambda Legal [advocacy website] brought the suit in the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] on behalf of Karen Golinski, a federal court employee who was married in California during the six-month period when same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive] licenses were granted under state law. Golinski is seeking an injunction against the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) [official website], which refuses to enroll her same-sex spouse, citing the 1998 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text]. OPM refuses despite multiple orders [JURIST report] to do so, issued after an employment dispute resolution (EDR) hearing by the chief judge of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website], Alex Kozinski. Golinski's complaint argues that Kozinski's orders should be binding because, "as to judicial employees, the separation of powers doctrine requires that an EDR tribunal's reasonable interpretation of the law take precedence over that of any office or agency of the executive." OPM did not appeal the judge's order but issued a press release [text, PDF] stating that it is not obligated to follow them because the chief judge, "was acting as an administrative official in this matter, reacting to the concerns of an employee of the judiciary. He was not acting as a federal judge in a court case."

In November, the Obama administration filed a motion to dismiss [JURIST report] a federal lawsuit [complaint, PDF] challenging the DOMA. The suit was brought [JURIST report] in July by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley [official profile] and challenges the DOMA on constitutional grounds. In September, the government filed a motion to dismiss [JURIST report] a similar lawsuit brought by the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) [advocacy website] on behalf of a group of plaintiffs who are or have been married under Massachusetts state's same-sex marriage law. Also in September, 90 members of Congress introduced [JURIST report] a bill [HR 3567 text] to repeal the DOMA, which was signed by former president Bill Clinton in 1996. DOMA refuses federal marriage benefits to same-sex couples, including social security, tax laws, and immigration rights, and defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

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