Judge says denying benefits to same sex spouse is discriminatory

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, April 5, 2012 15:11 EDT
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Two gay men celebrate their wedding. Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.
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A federal judge in California ordered another court to pay the health insurance costs of an employee’s same sex spouse, in a finding that called denial of equal benefits to the couple discriminatory.

It’s still not clear whether the ruling will actually result in payments for the court employee’s spouse, according to The San Francisco Chronicle. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts will still have to weigh the apparent conflict between anti-discrimination laws and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which excludes same sex couples from the special rights and privileges granted by marriage.

Still, the judge’s order represents a landmark bit of progress in the fight to secure equal rights for the LGBT community by explicitly including that community in anti-discrimination laws and ordering a court to pay for medical benefits.

The case, heard Wednesday by U.S. District Judge James Ware in San Francisco, was filed after a the spouse of Christopher Nathan, a law clerk in California, was denied federal benefits by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, which cited DOMA as a reason.

The judge said that Nathan’s spouse, Thomas Alexander, was entitled to equal benefits by the court’s own non-discrimination policies, but that he could not order the court to provide health insurance directly due to federal law codified in DOMA.

Thus, the order required Nathan’s employer to compensate Alexander for health insurance costs, but Judge Ware noted that the administrative office would have to investigate the issue further and come to its own conclusions on whether DOMA and anti-discrimination laws can be simultaneously enforced.

Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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