In an interesting clash concerning state-versus-federal bailiwicks, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer Bob Egelko reported on a recent ruling by Chief Federal Appeals Court Judge Alex Kozinski. On November 19, he ordered the Obama Administration to “stop resisting his finding that the wife of a lesbian court employee was entitled to government insurance coverage.”
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) had rejected Kozinski’s earlier ruling in the case, wherein he told the agency to allow Karen Golinski, a staff attorney at the court’s San Francisco headquarters for more than 17 years, to enroll her wife, Amy Cunninghis, in the family insurance plan through which their 6-year-old son already is covered. He further ordered that Golinski be reimbursed for the cost—now at $429 a month—she has paid for her partner’s coverage since she first applied for it in September 2008.
Kozinski’s rebuke is the second directed against OPM recently by the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeal for denying insurance coverage to the same-sex spouses of court-supervised employees. In both cases, the agency, whose director was appointed by President Obama, invoked the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that bars federal marriage benefits for same-sex couples.
In a previous admonition, according to Egelko, Judge Stephen Reinhardt told the federal public defender’s office in Los Angeles to pay a gay lawyer for the cost of insurance coverage for his husband.
Kozinski pushed even more broadly for equality when he directed the nationwide personnel office to allow family coverage for Golinski’s wife.
Golinski’s lawyer, James McGuire, said, “It’s now up to the agency to follow the law. Ours is a tradition of executive and legislative branches obeying the courts. The rule of law applies here.”
In August, the Obama Administration filed court papers claiming a federal marriage law discriminates against gays, yet government lawyers continued to defend it in court.
Golinski and Cunninghis are one of the 18,000 gay and lesbian couples whose marriages remain valid under the Proposition 8 court decision earlier this year.
According to the November 20 issue of The Week in its “Telling Points,” the US Census has stated that one third of 150,000 same-sex couples reported as married also are raising children—like Golinski and Cunninghis: a couple, a child.
A valid marriage—absent the rights of legally married heterosexual couples. Something is very, very wrong.