California federal court rules: Government agency must insure employee’s same-sex spouse

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in Compensation and Benefits,Employment Law,Human Resources

In a case that’s already being appealed, a federal district court has ruled that a federal agency must enroll an employee’s same-sex spouse in the employee’s health care plan.

Recent case: Karen Golinski works as an attorney for the federal government. She married her long-time same-sex partner in California. Golinski asked her agency to enroll her wife in the health insurance plan that already covered Golinski and the couple’s adopted minor child.

The government agency refused and Golinski took the case to court, arguing that she and her spouse were denied equal protection of the law based on their sex and sexual orientation.

The government countered that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) defined marriage as the union between a man and a woman, and prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

The court struck down the law, finding that sexual orientation is a protected class based on historic discrimination and that the DOMA is unconstitutional. (Golinski v. U.S., No. C-10-00257, ND CA, 2012)

Final note: The case is on appeal, a process that is likely to cost tax­­payers $1.5 million.

The case is widely considered a major victory for the gay rights movement, and advocacy groups are pouring significant resources into upholding the ruling.

This is a fight that will most likely land in the U.S. Supreme Court, which will be asked to rule once and for all whether sexual orientation is a protected classification.

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