December 15, 2011
By Jacob Combs
Tomorrow, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California will hear oral arguments in a case brought by Lambda Legal on behalf of Karen Golinski, an employee of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals who attempted to have her wife, Amy Cunninghis, put on her government health insurance plan. Karen and Amy wed in California in August 2008, and when Golinski’s initial attempt to add her wife to the insurance plan was rejected, she filed an internal complaint with the 9th Circuit, which prohibits discrimination based on sex or sexual orientation.
9th Circuit Chief Justice Alex Kozinski held in 2009 that the court should reverse its earlier denial to Golinski, but the U.S. Office of Personnel Management instructed Blue Cross/Blue Shield to deny Golinski’s request. Kozinski ordered OPM to stop, but the office responded that under DOMA, it was prevented from extending health coverage to Golinski’s spouse.
Earlier this year, a district judge dismissed Golinski and Lamdba Legal’s claim ‘without prejudice’ (meaning it could be amended), saying the OPM’s obligations under DOMA trumped the 9th Circuit’s non-discrimination policy. The judge, however, did not address the merits of DOMA specifically, and noted that Golinski “ha[d] a clear right to relief.”
Golinski and Lambda then filed an amended suit challenging DOMA’s constitutionality. Since the U.S. Department of Justice is no longer defending DOMA in court, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) intervened in the lawsuit. Tomorrow’s hearing will address both BLAG’s request to dismiss the suit, and Golinski’s request for a summary judgment that DOMA is unconstitutional.
UPDATE: Thanks to Kathleen for helping me get my facts straight, and for passing on to me the following questions issued by the judge who will hear tomorrow’s hearing. From Scribd: