A federal judge in California has ruled a section of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional in a case brought by a group of public employees whose same-sex spouses were denied long-term care insurance.
U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled late Thursday that Section 3 of DOMA, which bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages, violates the equal protection rights of the couples who sued both the federal government and the state's California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS).
In granting summary judgment to the public employees, Wilken ruled that DOMA and a provision in the federal tax code "are constitutionally invalid to the extent that they exclude Plaintiff same-sex spouses and registered domestic partners from enrollment in the CalPERS long-term care plan."
Wilken ordered CalPERS to cease denying enrollment to same-sex couples in the plan based on DOMA, though the judge's decision would be stayed pending appeal, she wrote.
As in other cases challenging DOMA's constitutionality, the Obama administration's Department of Justice declined to defend the 1996 law. The House Republican-led Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group intervened to defend DOMA in the lawsuit.
In February another federal trial judge in California ruled against DOMA in a benefits-related case. Karen Golinski, an attorney and employee of the U.S. Court of Appeals, sued after she was denied health benefits for her wife. U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White ruled in favor of Golinski, and a month later, the White House's Office of Personnel Management sent a letter to Golinski's health care provider informing the insurer that it was no longer contesting spousal coverage. The case is currently on appeal.