BY Kerry Eleveld
December 18 2009 4:20 PM ET
The following is a statement from Lambda Legal in response to OPM:
“The Obama Administration is rejecting yet another chance to do the right and legally required thing”
(Los Angeles, Month Date, 2008) — In response to a decision by the federal government to ignore an order by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that one of its employees, Lambda Legal client Karen Golinski, is entitled to spousal health benefits, Lambda Legal Marriage Project Director Jennifer C. Pizer issued the following statement:
“We are once again surprised and shocked that the Obama Administration is rejecting yet another chance to do the right and legally required thing, disregarding both the order, and the substantive analysis, of the Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit about what federal law and the Ninth Circuit's employment rules require in this case.
Chief Judge Kozinski has concluded that the Ninth Circuit MUST not discriminate against Karen Golinski with respect to the health insurance benefits portion of her compensation, and that the Separation of Powers doctrine of the U.S. Constitution authorizes the court to take appropriate steps to treat its workers fairly, and prevents employees of the Executive Branch from interfering with the functioning of the Judicial Branch in these circumstances.
Judge Kozinski, a Reagan appointee, is widely regarded as among the brightest judges on the federal bench, an expert in issues of judicial independence, and notable for his common sense approach.
Lambda Legal believes Judge Kozinski is clearly correct that employees of the federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the Department of Justice do not have superior authority to interpret federal law than federal judges. Lambda Legal also finds it troubling and very disappointing that the Obama Administration has chosen to express its views of these legal questions through Friday-afternoon press statements stating that it will not comply with Judge Kozinski's direct orders, rather than by presenting its legal reasoning to Judge Kozinski in this proceeding so that we can respond on Ms. Golinski's behalf in the duly-established administrative forum in which Ms. Golinski is required to present her discrimination claim.
OPM has never disputed that this administrative forum is the appropriate venue for this discrimination claim, and yet has refused to participate and present its views. Today, again, these Executive Branch officials are refusing to respect both Judge Kozinski's duly-issued order and his clear, compelling legal analysis. This is not the approach to issues of LGBT equality we had anticipated and deserve from the Obama Administration.
Lambda Legal is representing Karen Golinski in this matter with the Morrison & Foerster LLP law firm.