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Justice Dept Continues Fight in Benefits Suit

Justice Dept Continues Fight in Benefits Suit


Despite its announcement last week that a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, the Obama administration has not dropped its defense in a case brought by a lesbian federal court employee who is seeking health insurance coverage for her spouse.

Reuters reports that the Justice Department in a Monday filing said that it would continue to enforce Section 3 of the 1996 law, which bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages. The filing reiterates last week's statement by Attorney General Eric Holder.

"Section 3 of DOMA will continue to remain in effect unless Congress repeals it or there is a final judicial finding that strikes it down, and the President has informed me that the Executive Branch will continue to enforce the law," Holder said. "But while both the wisdom and the legality of Section 3 of DOMA will continue to be the subject of both extensive litigation and public debate, this Administration will no longer assert its constitutionality in court."

Karen Golinski, a 19-year employee of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, applied for health care coverage in 2008 for her spouse, with whom she is legally married in California.

In 2009, Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski ruled in the capacity of court administrator that denying such health coverage violated the court's nondiscrimination policies. He ordered Golinski's health insurance provider to extend such benefits, a ruling opposed by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which has instructed Golinski's insurance provider not to enroll her wife, Amy Cunninghis, on the grounds that it would violate DOMA.

Justice Department attorneys wrote on Monday that Judge Kozinski's order is not enforceable via Golinski's lawsuit, Reuters reports.

A federal district court heard oral arguments in the case in December; Golinski is represented by Lambda Legal and Morrison & Foerster.

Read the full article here.

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