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Ninth Circuit Schedules DOMA Appeal for September

By Robyn Hagan Cain on May 24, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Mark your calendars: the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will consider whether the federal government may deny health benefits to the same-sex spouse of a court employee the week of September 10, reports Metropolitan News-Enterprise.

Though the House of Representatives Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) had petitioned for speedy, en banc hearing on the matter, their request was denied on Tuesday. (Chief Judge Kozinski and Judge Reinhardt did not participate in consideration of en banc hearing.)

The BLAG challenge to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has been making headlines since February, when a Northern California federal judge ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional.

Karen Golinski, a staff attorney for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, sued the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to obtain health insurance benefits for her spouse, Amy Cunninghis. While same-sex marriages are still on hold in California pending the outcome of further appeals in the state's Proposition 8 battle, Golinski and Cunninghis were legally married during the brief period in 2008 when the state permitted same-sex marriages.

Golinski sought a determination from the court that DOMA Section 3, as applied to her, violates the United States Constitution by refusing to recognize lawful marriages when determining benefits for federal employees, and claimed that she was unconstitutionally denied legal protections and benefits under federal law that would be available to her if she were a heterosexual with a opposite-sex spouse.

In a 43-page opinion, Judge Jeffrey White ruled DOMA is unconstitutional as applied to Golinski because it "treats gay men and lesbians differently on the basis of their sexual orientation" without any legal basis, noting that "the imposition of subjective moral beliefs of a majority on a minority cannot provide a justification."

Arguments in the BLAG DOMA appeal are scheduled for the week of September 10-14, 2012.

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