Decisions issued to resolve two administrative complaints filed by lawyers who work within the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit conclude that these employees are entitled to health insurance for their same-sex spouses. The decisions resolve internal complaints and do not establish legal precedent.
The first administrative order was authored by Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Kozinski in response to a grievance filed by judicial attorney Karen Golinski. It concludes that the court’s internal nondiscrimination policy forbidding sexual orientation discrimination against court employees requires equal health insurance for employees with a same-sex spouse. Judge Kozinski concludes that the federal “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) raises troubling constitutional questions that need not be resolved because the federal law does not prevent equal health benefits in this instance. Judge Reinhardt issued the second administrative order in the grievance filed by federal public defender Brad Levenson, concluding that DOMA does block application of the court’s nondiscrimination rules but may not be constitutionally applied in this context.
Since taking office, President Obama has renewed his position that gay people should receive equal rights and privileges and has called on Congress to repeal the section of DOMA that denies federal benefits to same-sex couples in legally recognized unions.