Health coverage ordered for worker’s same-sex spouse

The Obama administration has directed a health insurance company to cover the same-sex spouse of a federal employee.

Gay rights advocates say they believe this is the first time such coverage has been allowed.

A March 9 letter to Blue Cross Blue Shield, from Shirley Patterson, assistant director of federal employee insurance operations for the Office of Personnel Management, said that “OPM hereby withdraws any outstanding directive regarding the enrollment of Ms. Golinski’s wife, Amy C. Cunninghis, in her family health benefits plan.”

OPM previously said the wife of Karen Golinski, a federal court employee in California, could not be covered.

The new position follows a February ruling by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White, who ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act “unconstitutionally discriminates against same-sex married couples.”

The letter told Blue Cross Blue Shield to “implement an expeditious enrollment of Ms. Cunninghis.”

“We’re thrilled for Karen and Amy, who have been waiting for years for this equal treatment,” said Tara Borelli, a lawyer with Lambda Legal, which represents Golinski.

Despite the victory for Golinski, the case is not over. Republicans in Congress have appealed the district court’s decision.

OPM’s letter said its decision on Golinski “has no effect on enrollments requested by other same-sex spouses.”

OPM could not be reached for further comment.

Joe Davidson writes the Federal Diary, a column about the federal workplace that celebrated its 80th birthday in November 2012.
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