A Judge has ruled that the denial of insurance coverage to a same-sex spouse of a federal employee is discrimination. The judge ruled that the employee is entitled to compensation for the cost of private insurance coverage for his spouse. That compensation is to come from the employer.
There is a strange situation in California. On May 15, 2008, the California Supreme Court decided that same-sex couples had the right to marry in the state of California. On November 8, 2008, Proposition 8 passed. That amendment changed the California Constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman. The passage of Prop 8 meant that the state of California could no longer preform or recognize same-sex marriages.
In the time between when same-sex marriage was legalized, and when it was banned, there were many same-sex couples who got married. Their marriages were still recognized by the state of California. On February 7, 2012, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rules that the ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional. The state is not currently preforming same-sex marriages, but it may do so in the future.
The result is that the same-sex couples who got married in California in that brief period between when it was legal, and when it was banned, are stuck in a sort of “limbo”. It would seem that the same laws, rules, and regulations that apply to opposite-sex married couples would also apply to them. When it comes to health insurance coverage for spouses, though, it seems that things are not happening as they should be.
Earlier this year, Karen Golinski, filed a lawsuit against her employer because her employer was not allowing her to cover her same-sex spouse on her employer sponsored health insurance. The two women got married in the gap when same-sex marriage was recognized in California. Karen works for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California as a staff attorney.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White ruled that the portion of the Defense of Marriage Act that states that same-sex married couples cannot include their spouse on their health insurance is unconstitutional. He also ruled that a federal worker should be allowed to enroll her same-sex spouse in her health insurance coverage.
A new court case involves Christopher Nathan, who is a law clerk for U.S. Magistrate Maria Elena James. Christopher married his spouse, Thomas Alexander, in 2008 when California was recognizing and preforming same-sex marriages. Last year, Nathan tried to enroll his spouse in the federal government’s health insurance plan. This was denied by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. The reason was because of a 1996 law that bars federal recognition of same-sex unions.
This week, Chief U.S. District Judge James Ware ruled that the denial of insurance benefits based on the sexual orientation and gender of Nathan’s spouse violates the federal court’s guarantee of a “discrimination-free workplace”. He has ruled that Nathan’s employer must compensate him for the cost of private insurance coverage for his spouse.
Image by Calsidyrose on Flickr