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OPM defies order on same-sex benefits

Empathy with Golinski's situation is all well and good, but cold comfort if her spouse needs hospital care.

"I am shocked by OPM's continued defiance of Chief Judge Kozinski's orders," said Golinski, a court staff attorney. "I had hoped to begin the new year with health insurance for my spouse on my existing family plan. It is stressful for my family that this is not going to happen at this time."

What's so frustrating and aggravating to Golinski's attorney, Lamda Legal's Jennifer C. Pizer, is that the OPM did not participate in the process that led to Kozinski's order, yet the agency used its power to block it.

"We are once again surprised and shocked that the Obama Administration is rejecting yet another chance to do the right and legally required thing," she said. "This is not the approach to issues of LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] equality we had anticipated and deserve from the Obama Administration."

This isn't the first time the administration has disappointed those who support human rights for gays and lesbians. It's not even the first time in this case.

In January, Kozinski ruled that denying Golinski a benefit of federal employment because she married a woman instead of a man, which she legally could do in California at the time, "violates this court's guarantee of equal employment opportunity," as he recalled in his November document. To his dismay, the OPM responded in February with a letter that cited DOMA and said FEHBP "may not provide coverage for domestic partners, or legally married partners of the same sex, even though recognized by state law."

That letter was written before Obama's team took over the agency, but its message remains the same today.

"The decision in this matter was not reached lightly -- after we learned of this development, we examined our options and consulted with the DOJ," Kaplan's statement said. "DOJ advised us that the order issued by Judge Kozinski does not supersede our obligation to comply with existing law because it is not binding on OPM."

No matter how distasteful that obligation may be.

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