Judge: Denial of Same-Sex Benefits is Discrimination

A California federal judge has ruled that the denial of insurance benefits to same-sex couples is discriminatory.

Chief U.S. District Judge James Ware ruled on Tuesday that, “the denial of insurance benefits based on the sexual orientation and gender…violated the federal court’s guarantee of a “discrimination-free workplace.”

According to The San Fransisco Chronicle, the case “involves 38-year-old federal court law clerk Christopher Nathan and 39-year-old Thomas Alexander, who were married in 2008 when same-sex marriages were legal in California. Voters later approved Proposition 8, overturning the state Supreme Court ruling that had legalized same-sex marriages.”

“Nathan was turned down when he tried last year to enroll Alexander in the federal government’s health insurance plan. A 1996 law bars federal recognition of same-sex unions,” the Chronicle reports.

In his ruling, Ware demanded that Nathan be reimbursed by his employers for the costs of having to privately insure his husband.

Judge Ware’s ruling creates a problem for the court’s clerk, however.

Chief Clerk Richard Wieking says directives from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts require federal court clerks to comply with the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act.

On Wednesday, a Massachusetts appeals court heard arguments involving yet another challenge to the 1996 law.

According to LGBT Weekly, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management goes, “straight for the jugular and has challenged DOMA’s definition of the word ‘marriage’ as meaning only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ referring only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.”

Weiking tells the Chronicle that he will turn the matter of compliance with Ware’s ruling over to the Administrative Office.

The First Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to rule on Gill v. Office of Personnel Management within a couple of months.

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