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February 6, 2009


Queers United reported yesterday that Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has declared the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional.

The case stems from a suit brought by Deputy Federal Public Defender Brad Levenson, who married Tony Sears last July 12, and 9th Circuit staff lawyer Karen Golinski, who married Amy Cunninghis last year.

According to an article by Pam Spaulding at Pam's House Blend,

Both orders are internal employee grievance decisions. Both found in favor of the gay employees, directing court administrators to give health insurance benefits to their spouses. The orders also represent direct challenges to DOMA, the 1996 act that forbids the federal government from treating same-sex relationships as marriages for any purpose.

A lawyer for the staff attorney said this is believed to be the first time federal employees will get benefits covering a same-sex spouse.

Judge Reinhardt said in his ruling:

"The denial of federal benefits to same-sex spouses cannot be justified simply by a distaste for or disapproval of same-sex marriage or a desire to deprive same-sex spouses benefits available to other spouses in order to discourage exercising a legal right afforded them by the state."

In A Related Story...

At a town hall meeting at the Dean Acheson Auditorium in Washington, DC this past Wednesday, our new Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, told participants that equalizing the treatment of the State Department's LGBT employees and their partners is being reviewed and "is on a fast timeline" to be remedied.

Clinton was responding to a question posed by Ralan Hill, a foreign service officer with a same-sex partner, who noted that in an emergency situation abroad, the State Department would be responsible for evacuating him but would have no such obligation to his partner. The department does, however, provide evacuation assistance to heterosexual spouses of officers stationed overseas. She went on to say:

"We are reviewing what would need to be changed, what we can legally change," Secretary Clinton said. "A lot of things we cannot legally change by a decision in the State Department. But let's see what we can determine is within our realm of responsibility, and we are moving on that expeditiously."

"This is an issue of real concern to me. And even though, as you pointed out, all of our personnel share the same service requirements, the partners in same-sex relationships are not offered the same training, the same benefits, and the same protections that other family members receive when you serve abroad. So I view this as an issue of workplace fairness, employee retention, and the safety and effectiveness of our embassy communities worldwide."

This is why we need to keep reminding President Obama that the repeal of DOMA (as promised in his campaign) is of the utmost importance.

You can express your feelings about this by going to the White House E-Contact Form.

Or you can call the White House directly to express your opinion personally at either of these numbers...

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