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Lambda Legal Says Use of DOMA is Unconstitutional

with 2 comments

Gay advocacy group Lambda Legal filed a brief Monday with a U.S. District Court in California, as part of its lawsuit against the federal government over the application of the Defense of Marriage Act.

The organization says the federal Office of Personnel Management’s use of DOMA to block health benefits for the wife of a lesbian federal court employee is unconstitutional.

In its brief, Lambda Legal claims that the OPM unlawfully used the 1996 law to deny its client her equal employment benefits.

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals staff lawyer Karen Golinski originally sought health insurance for her legal spouse. The court’s chief judge ruled that denying her such benefits was discriminatory and ordered her insurance company to enroll her wife into her existing family plan, meaning no additional fees. But the OPM blocked the coverage citing DOMA’s definition of a spouse. That prompted Golinski to file suit.

Lambda’s legal director Jon Davidson says he thinks the OPM is just spending MORE money to discriminate than it would by affording Golinski her constitutionally-protected rights.

Davidson: “The Office of Personnel Management is saying, ‘Well, we don’t have any other choice, we have to enforce DOMA’ and what we’ve said is, ‘you know what, first of all, you’re overreading DOMA; it doesn’t actually prohibit the 9th Circuit from doing this. And you’re being ridiculously overzealous in trying to interfere with this woman getting insurance for her wife, and we just don’t understand it.'”

Davidson says he thinks there’s a chance the district court WILL rule in Lambda’s favor because of the court’s initial request for a brief specifically on the question of constitutionality. He says the judge’s interest in DOMA’s role in the case may also be an indicator.

The government is set to file a reply brief next week. A hearing in the case is scheduled for December 17th.


Written by Xorje Olivares

November 10, 2010 at 3:40 PM

2 Responses

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  1. I hope for the best for them.
    good luck!


    November 10, 2010 at 3:48 PM

  2. Of COURSE the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional! DUH!

    While it’s true that the Constitution of the United States does not define “marriage,” the federal government has hopelessly complicated the issue by providing MOST of the legal benefits to married couples. According to the Government Accounting Office (GAO), there are 1,138 legal benefits, protections, and responsibilities that are automatically bestowed on married couples. Much of this has to do with property, income tax law, and Social Security benefits. There is also the “Full Faith & Credit” clause, under which any Straight couple can fly off to Las Vegas for a drunken weekend and get married by an Elvis impersonator, and that marriage is automatically honored in all 50 states. But because DOMA, any Gay couple that is legally married in Iowa becomes automatically “UN-married” if they move south to Missouri. Thus Gay couples are held to a different, and hence unconstitutional, legal standard.

    This debate has nothing to do with religion since (1) the United States is not a theocracy, and (2) church have been and always will be able to deny wedding ceremonies to whomever they want.

    This debate also has nothing to do with children and parenting, since (1) a couple does not need to have a marriage license to have children, and (2) the ability or even desire to have children is not a prerequisite for obtaining a marriage license.

    This is simply about fair and equal treatment for Gay and Straight couples under the law. The only difference between the two is the gender of the two people in the relationship. And there is simply no constitutional justification for denying Gay couples the exact same legal benefits that Straight couples have always taken for granted.

    But let me reassure you: NOTHING is changing for Straight couples. For them, marriage is NOT being “redefined.” Straight couples will continue to date, get engaged, marry, and build lives and families together as they always have. None of that will change when Gay couples are allowed to do the same. Your marriage will never be threated by the fact that the Gay couple next door decides to get married also.

    Chuck Anziulewicz

    November 12, 2010 at 3:17 PM

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