Rulings on gay couples’ benefits question Defense of Marriage Act
Posted on February 6, 2009
Filed Under Uncategorized
Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled earlier this week that Sears — who married Levenson, a deputy federal public defender, last July — is entitled to the same spousal benefits that heterosexual couples employed by the department receive.
“I’m not convinced this is over,” Levenson said of their long-running battle to be treated like a married couple. “But it pushes the conversation forward.”
Reinhardt’s ruling branded the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. The 9th Circuit’s chief judge, Alex Kozinski, also weighed in on the subject last month, granting benefits to the same-sex spouse of a staff attorney for the court. But he stopped short of basing that decision on constitutional grounds.
The 9th Circuit judges ruled in their capacity as dispute-resolution officials within the federal judiciary, whose employees are prohibited from suing in federal court.
Levenson and Sears see Reinhardt’s order as a step along the road to equality.
But Levenson pointed out Thursday that his attempt to file a new benefits form was rejected by an office computer still programmed to exclude same-sex spouses from even applying.
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