9th Circuit hits Defense of Marriage Act

The Los Angeles Daily Journal will report tomorrow that a ruling by Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals says the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutionally denies benefits to gay federal employees' spouses. That ruling on behalf of an L.A. federal public defender, and another by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski involving claims by a 9th Circuit staff attorney, raises questions about the act.

"The denial of federal benefits to same-sex spouses cannot be justified simply by a distaste for or disapproval of same-sex marriage or a desire to deprive same-sex spouses benefits available to other spouses in order to discourage exercising a legal right afforded them by the state," Reinhardt wrote in his Feb. 2 order....

Both orders are internal employee grievance decisions. Both found in favor of the gay employees, directing court administrators to give health insurance benefits to their spouses. The orders also represent direct challenges to DOMA, the 1996 act that forbids the federal government from treating same-sex relationships as marriages for any purpose.

A lawyer for the staff attorney said this is believed to be the first time federal employees will get benefits covering a same-sex spouse.


Reinhardt and Kozinski wrote the orders in their roles as hearing officers for some circuit employee disputes.

The cases involve Deputy Federal Public Defender Brad Levenson, who married Tony Sears last July 12, and 9th Circuit staff lawyer Karen Golinski, who married Amy Cunninghis last year.

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