Constitutional Law

Two Federal Lawyers Win Benefits for Same-Sex Spouses in 9th Circuit Orders

Two federal judges on the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have required payment of health insurance benefits to same-sex spouses of lawyers employed by the U.S. government.

Judge Stephen Reinhardt and Chief Judge Alex Kozinski issued the orders as hearing officers for circuit employee disputes, the Daily Journal reports (sub. req.). Reinhardt’s order declared the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, while Kozinski’s order didn’t reach the “hard question” of the statute’s constitutionality. Instead, he said ambiguous language in a federal health benefits act allowed him to order benefits, the story says.

The cases were brought by Deputy Federal Public Defender Brad Levenson of Los Angeles and 9th Circuit staff lawyer Karen Golinski, according to the story. Lawyers from Morrison & Foerster represented Golinski on a pro bono basis.

Jennifer Pizer, senior counsel and director of the national marriage project at Lambda Legal in Los Angeles, acknowledged that the orders do not create direct precedent. But she told the Daily Journal that “they will become part of our national conversation about fairness and equality for same-sex couples.”

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