Saturday, April 27, 2013

9th Circuit Judge Rules Federal Public Defender Entitled To Same-Sex Spousal Health Benefits

In In re Alison Clark, (9th Cir., April 24, 2013), U.S. 9th Circuit Judge Harry Pregerson, acting in his capacity as Chair of the Federal Public Defender Standing Committee, held that the Administrative Office of the United States Courts acted wrongly in denying federal health care benefits to the same-sex spouse of an Oregon assistant federal public defender.  Pregerson held that the rejection violated the health care plan’s specific ban on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. He also concluded that Oregon’s constitutional ban on recognizing same-sex marriage, as well as the federal Defense of Marriage Act are unconstitutional as violations of equal protection and substantive due process rights.  He ordered the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to submit the public defender’s health benefits election form to the appropriate insurance carrier and, in the future, process applications without regard to the sex of the spouse or whether their marriage is recognized by their home state. He added that if the Office of Personnel Management blocks this relief, then plaintiff is entitled to monetary relief.  The Salem (OR) Statesman-Journal reports on the decision.