Federal benefits at stake in Supreme Court same-sex marriage cases


The Supreme Court arguments this week over same-sex marriage may sound familiar to some of the federal workers who have fought over the issue themselves.

Federal-court employee Karen Golinski last year successfully challenged the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman for federal purposes. A U.S. District Court ruled in her favor, deciding that the Office of Personnel Management could not deny health benefits to her wife.

DOMA is one of two issues at stake this week in the cases before the Supreme Court, where Golinski has a seat in the chamber, according to an article by Federal Diary columnist Joe Davidson. The other issue is California’s Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage.

(Saul Loeb / AFP-Getty Images) (Saul Loeb / AFP-Getty Images)

After a string of victories in lower courts, federal workers who support same-sex marriage have said winning a DOMA case at the Supreme Court level is the last domino that has to fall before all federal agencies have to provide benefits to gay spouses.

Martin Koski, a retired Social Security Administration employee who won a U.S. Court of Appeals decision relating to benefits for his spouse, has argued that the Defense of Marriage Act violates the equal-protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Survey data suggests that a large — even growing — number of federal workers are dissatisfied with how their employers handle diversity.

In 2012, about 57 percent of federal workers said their agencies promote and respect diversity, according to the federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. (See page 36).

That marked the fourth consecutive year in which ratings in that category dropped or remained roughly flat. The question is how much of that sentiment stems from the fact that employees have had to fight for their agencies to recognize same-sex marriage.

The Partnership for Public Service has created an online tool that allows users to browse the results of the employee-satisfaction survey by agency and category.


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Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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