A federal judge in California has
awarded a couple benefits compensation previously denied because the
couple is gay, the Los Angeles Times reported.
U.S. 9th Circuit Court of
Stephen Reinhardt's opinion called the denial of benefits a
violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Public defender Brad Levenson was
denied spousal benefits for his husband, Tony Sears. The couple
married on July 12, 2008 in California before voters approved a gay
marriage ban, Proposition 8, in November.
“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 of benefits available to other spouses in order to discourage
them from exercising a legal right afforded them by a state,”
The judge had earlier ruled in
Levenson's favor, ordering the Federal Public Defenders office to
process Levenson's application for spousal benefits. But citing the
Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Office of Personnel Management
halted the application. DOMA is the 1996 law that allows states to
ignore legal gay marriages and defines marriage as a heterosexual
union for federal agencies.
The OPM is headed by the
administration's highest-ranking openly gay official, John Berry.
Berry has testified in favor of the
Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, a bill that would
extend benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees.
Judge Reinhardt awarded Levenson
payment of the equivalent value of the coverage denied.
Levenson said he was “very pleased”
with the ruling. “Is it equal treatment?” he asked rhetorically.
“No. Is it a good remedy? Yes. And we are appreciative of the
An increasing number of federal
lawsuits against DOMA are percolating through the court system. The
majority have been filed in either California or Massachusetts. Gay
men and lesbians have been allowed to marry in Massachusetts since