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National News
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National News

by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

Lambda sues feds over spousal benefits
Lambda Legal sued the federal government in U.S. District Court in San Francisco January 20, seeking to force the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to obey rulings by Judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that awarded spousal health-insurance benefits to a 9th Circuit employee, lawyer Karen Golinski.

Last January, Kozinski ruled that denying Golinski spousal health insurance for her wife, Amy Cunninghis, was illegal discrimination. He ordered the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to submit Golinski's health-benefits election form to her insurer, Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

OPM then instructed Blue Cross not to comply.

"It's a bit shocking that we've reached this point with the Obama administration," said Lambda attorney Jennifer Pizer. "Where is our 'fierce advocate' for LGBT rights?"

Kozinski issued another ruling in November asserting that he has authority - under the 9th Circuit's Employment Dispute Resolution Plan and the U.S. Constitution's separation-of-powers doctrine - to interpret laws governing the rights of judicial employees. He gave OPM 30 days to comply with, or appeal, his original order.

OPM did neither and instead issued a press release saying Kozinski's order was not binding and that the U.S. Department of Justice had advised OPM not to comply with it because of the Defense of Marriage Act, a Clinton-era federal law that bars the U.S. government from recognizing Gay marriages.

Kozinski then declared that his rulings against OPM were conclusive and binding.

The lawsuit asks the federal district court to order OPM to rescind its instruction to Blue Cross/Blue Shield not to enroll Cunninghis in Golinski's family health insurance plan.

With assistance from Bill Kelley

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