Judge Rules For Lesbian In Health Insurance Case

Filed under: Discrimination,Legal,News |

A federal judge has ruled same-sex couples are entitled to the same rights as heterosexual couples, in a decision that has implications for employee health insurance benefits.

Ninth Circuit U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey S. White ruled Wednesday, 22 February 2012, that the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, declaring that the federal statute violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equality and was discriminatory.

The decision comes in the case of Karen Golinski, a 20-year employee of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, who in 2008 tried to enroll her same-sex spouse, whom she legally married in 2008, in her employer’s health care plan.

White ruled for Golinski stating the DOMA did not provide “a justification that is substantially related to an important governmental objective.”

“The demise of this discriminatory statute is long overdue, and the court’s ruling today makes that clear,” said Rita Lin, associate attorney at the law firm Morrison & Foerster, who represented the plaintiff in cooperation Lambda Legal, an organization that defends legal right for the gay community. “DOMA produces circumstances where certain federal employees are compensated differently than their coworkers because of their sexual orientation. That’s unconstitutional.”

It is the first DOMA-related ruling since U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced in 2011 that the Department of Justice determined DOMA was unconstitutional.

The ruling is a setback to the Republican-controlled Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, the U.S. House panel set up to defend the statute after Attorney General Holder said the Department of Justice would no longer do so. During the hearing in December, the panel argued that DOMA was enacted to safeguard and foster heterosexual marriage.

White, who was named to the federal court by President George W. Bush, said tradition didn’t justify targeting a specific group.

“The obligation of the court is to define the liberty of all, not to mandate our own moral code,” White wrote. “The ‘ancient lineage’ of a classification does not render it legitimate.”

The ruling opens the way for same-sex couples to be treated the same as heterosexual married couples and domestic partners in terms of employer-provided health insurance plans.

A separate case but similar case DOMA unconstitutional in is on appeal in the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.

“I am profoundly grateful for the thought and consideration that Judge White gave to my case,” Golinski said in statement released by Lambda Legal. “His decision acknowledges that DOMA violates the Constitution and that my marriage to Amy is equal to those marriages of my heterosexual colleagues. This decision is a huge step toward equality.”

Karen Golinski vs. United States Office of Personnel Management and John Berry, 10-257

List your business in the premium web directory for free This website is listed under Human Resources Directory