HRC Blog

Lambda Legal Sues OPM Over Benefits Denial

Wednesday, Lambda Legal filed suit in federal court on behalf of Karen Golinksi, an employee of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, who was denied spousal benefits for her partner who she married in California before Proposition 8 was passed.  Earlier this year, Golinski filed a discrimination complaint with her employer which was eventually reviewed by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski as part of the Ninth Circuit’s administrative process.  Judge Kozinski concluded that denying spousal benefits to Golinski is discrimination and ordered the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, and subsequently the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), to provide them.  As we told you last month, OPM -- the agency that manages benefits for federal employees -- refused to comply, citing advice from the Department of Justice that doing so would conflict with the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which recognizes only different-sex marriages for federal purposes.  Lambda‘s suit asks a federal court to compel OPM to provide the benefits. This case is an unfortunate example of how discriminatory marriage laws, on the state and federal level, affect LGBT people every day.  Thousands of federal employees like Karen are not treated equally, or paid equally, simply because of who they love.  In their lawsuit challenging DOMA, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders represents several current and former federal employees who have dedicated years to public service and yet are treated as second-class citizens.  As Lambda and GLAD pursue equality for these workers in the courts, HRC continues to push Congress to address this inequality for federal workers through the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act and to end federal discrimination against married same-sex couples by passing the Respect for Marriage Act and repealing DOMA once and for all.

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