In a legal end-run around the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, a federal judge . . . ordered compensation for a Los Angeles man denied federal employee benefits for his spouse because they are both men.
-- From "Judge orders compensation for gay couple who were denied healthcare, other benefits" by Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times 11/19/09
Skirting the Defense of Marriage Act, a 9th Circuit judge orders that a federal attorney be reimbursed the costs associated with the denial of coverage for his husband.
Brad Levenson, a lawyer with the federal public defender's office, had applied for and been denied healthcare coverage and other benefits for Tony Sears after their July 12, 2008, marriage. Same-sex marriage was legal in California for five months last year, until voters passed Proposition 8, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman.
U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Reinhardt had previously ruled the denial of benefits for Sears to be discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, a violation of state law and an unconstitutional denial of due process.
Reinhardt, who is responsible for resolving employee disputes for public defenders within the 9th Circuit, had ordered the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to process Levenson's application for spousal benefits. But the federal Office of Personnel Management stepped in to derail the enrollment, citing the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits federal government recognition of same-sex marriage.
Levenson appealed, seeking either an independently contracted benefits package for Sears or compensation for the costs they incurred in the absence of coverage. Reinhardt ordered the latter, based on a back pay provision in the law governing federal defenders' employment.
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