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Federal employee wins health care coverage for wife

A ruling by a district judge that the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutionally discriminates against same-sex married couples means that a staff lawyer for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals can obtain health benefits for her wife in California.

The case was brought to light when in 2008 same-sex marriages were legal in California. The plaintiff married her gay partner and then asked her boss to approve her request to add her wife to her health insurance. He signed off on the request, but the Office of Personnel Management ordered the insurer not to process the application.

The plaintiff then sued. The 43-page decision that came down, read, "The Court finds that DOMA... violates her right to equal protection of the law ... by, without substantial justification or rational basis, refusing to recognize her lawful marriage to prevent provision of health insurance coverage to her spouse." The decision that the DOMA is unconstitutional is the third time in less than two years that a federal court has declared it as such.

Members of congress are divided on the issue and this ruling is another setback for the DOMA, which Congress approved when states first started allowing gay and lesbian couples to get married. The law defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and prohibits the government from granting benefits such as Social Security and Medicaid to same-sex couples.

The issue of gay marriage will continue to challenge laws going forward and in this case a huge step was made toward equality between gay married couples and heterosexual couples.

Source: WANDTV.com, "Lesbian federal worker wins health benefits case," Lisa Leff, Feb. 23, 2012

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