By Pat Murphy
The federal Defense of Marriage Act could not be enforced to deny a federal employee the right to have her same-sex spouse covered under her health insurance plan, a U.S. District Court in California has ruled in granting summary judgment.
The plaintiff is a staff attorney for the 9th Circuit who is married to her same-sex partner. The plaintiff purchases her health insurance through her employer. However, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management refused to authorize the enrollment of the plaintiff’s spouse under the plaintiff’s insurance policy, citing the Defense of Marriage Act.
The Act defines “spouse” as a member of the opposite sex.
The chief judge for the 9th Circuit ordered the Office of Personnel Management to enroll the plaintiff’s spouse under her policy, determining that the denial of coverage violated the court’s employment rules which prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The plaintiff sued in the district court to enforce the chief judge’s order, alleging that the Act is unconstitutional.
While the case was pending, President Barack Obama directed the U.S. Department of Justice to cease its defense of the Act.
A bipartisan congressional group intervened to defend the law.
The district court concluded that the Act violated equal protection, rejecting the legislative group’s argument that the law was rationally related to preserving the institution of traditional, heterosexual marriage.
“Denying federal benefits to same-sex married couples has no rational effect on the procreation and child-rearing practices of opposite-sex married (or unmarried) couples,” the court said.
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Golinski v. U.S. Office of Personnel Management, No. C 10-00257 JSW. Feb. 22, 2012. Lawyers USA No. 993-3591.