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Berry Responds to Court Benefits Order


John Berry, the gay chief of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, was asked over the weekend about a federal judge's order that a lesbian employee be granted marriage benefits.

According to Time, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the ninth circuit of the U.S. court of appeals had ruled that Karen Golinski, an attorney who works for the court, be granted health benefits for her wife. The Obama administration, acting through OPM, refused to comply with the order, which has resulted in the judge recently ordering the administration to stop interfering.

On Saturday at the Gay and Lesbian Leadership Conference in San Francisco, an attendee asked OPM head Berry about the case and the administration's position in the Q&A session following his speech.

"Obviously, we were very interested in seeing if I had the authority to do this on my own," said Berry, in video provided by the Bilerico Project.

Berry invoked the work of Elaine Kaplan, his general counsel, who is a lesbian.

"She and the Justice Department concluded that basically neither I nor the president have the authority to do this, which is why Congresswoman [Tammy] Baldwin's legislation is so essential," said Berry.

Baldwin is the sponsor of the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, which would provide equal family benefits to gay and lesbian federal employees. The bill is working its way through Congress.

In the meantime, given the latest order from the judge, Berry said the attorneys are deliberating it.

According to Michelangelo Signorile, a decision will need to be made by December 21.

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Julie Bolcer