The Washington Post

Dems back health coverage for feds’ gay spouses


More than 130 House Democrats have filed a legal brief saying employer-sponsored health benefits should be allowed to cover the same-sex spouses of federal employees.

The amicus, or friend of the court, brief was filed in the case of Karen Golinski, a federal court employee in California. She won at the district court level and her wife can now be covered by the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

Karen Golinski, right, hugs her wife Amy Cunninghis as they pose for a photograph outside of a federal court building in 2010. (Jeff Chiu/AP)

The district court found unconstitutional Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriages.

Golinski’s lower court victory, however, did not extend coverage to other same-sex spouses and the decision is being appealed by the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG). Despite its name, BLAG, in this case, represents the House Republican leadership.

“The brief makes it clear that the House is not united on DOMA’s validity, that the BLAG lawyers do not speak for the entire institution, and that there is no legitimate federal interest in denying married same-sex couples the legal security, rights and responsibilities that federal law provides to couples who are married under state law,” said a statement from the office of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Lambda Legal, a legal organization that represents Golinski, said the Democrats’ brief was one of 13 filed on her behalf this week. Most Washington-area Democrats signed on to the brief.

“What these briefs make clear is that DOMA is both discriminatory and burdensome, unjustly stigmatizing one segment of the population while at the same time increasing the cost of doing business,” said Shelbi Day, a Lambda staff attorney. Clearly, it is time to put DOMA out of its — and our — misery.”

The office of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) did not have immediate reaction to the Democrats’ brief.

Previous columns by Joe Davidson are available at Follow the Federal Diary on Twitter: @JoeDavidsonWP

Joe Davidson writes the Federal Diary, a column about federal government and workplace issues that celebrated its 80th birthday in November 2012. Davidson previously was an assistant city editor at The Washington Post and a Washington and foreign correspondent with The Wall Street Journal, where he covered federal agencies and political campaigns.


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