Friday, January 21, 2011
Gay Couples Can Sue for Benefits
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that U.S. district judge Claudia Wilken denied a request Tuesday by the Obama administration to dismiss a case brought by six plaintiffs, who are suing for federally approved long-term health benefits that they have been denied under the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS). The couples married during the brief window of time in California when same-sex couples were allowed to do so prior to passage of Proposition 8.
Wilken rejected administration arguments that DOMA preserves the status quo, allowing for individual states to decide whether or not to permit gay marriage. DOMA further allows for a uniform federal policy for benefits and rights stemming from marriage, government attorneys argued.
But Wilken wrote in a 29-page order that DOMA "alters the status quo because it impairs the states' authority to define marriage, by robbing states of the power to allow same-sex civil marriages that will be recognized under federal law."
Attorney Claudia Center, who represents the couples, told The Advocate Thursday that she will be adding two plaintiffs, who are domestic partners under California law, and will move for class action certification of the suit.
In July, U.S. district judge Joseph L. Tauro in Boston ruled DOMA unconstitutional in two separate cases. While President Barck Obama has voiced support for legislative repeal of DOMA, the administration has appealed Tauro's ruling.