All straight federal employees get to share health benefits with their spouses. But when federal court employee Karen Golinski’s wife got denied health benefits because of DOMA, Golinski decided to sue along with Lambda Legal in Golinski v. United States Office of Personnel Management. But even if you haven’t heard of the case, hear this: in response to the case the Department of Justice submitted a 31-page brief detailing how “the federal government has played a significant and regrettable role in the history of discrimination against gay and lesbian individuals.” This is a very big deal.
Chris Geidner from Metro Weekly explains:
[The] filing does more than acknowledge the federal government’s role in discrimination, going on to detail specific instances of anti-gay and anti-lesbian discrimination, including the 1950 Senate resolution seeking an “investigation” into “homosexuals and other sexual perverts” in government employement and President Dwight Eisenhower’s executive order adding “sexual perversion” as a ground for “possible dismissal from government service,” in the brief’s words. It also details the role of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Postal Service in investigations seeking information about government employees suspected of such “perversion.”
The brief goes on to describe anti-gay and anti-lesbian state and local discrimination, as well as private discrimination, before discussing other considerations made by courts when deciding what level of scrutiny should be applied to laws classifying groups — including immutability; political powerlessness; and whether the classification bears any relation to, as the brief puts it, “legitimate policy objectives or ability to perform or contribute to society…”
[Then] After detailing why [DOMA fails to support any important government objective], the brief concludes, “[T]he official legislative record makes plain that DOMA Section 3 was motivated in substantial part by animus toward gay and lesbian individuals and their intimate relationships, and Congress identified no other interest that is materially advanced by Section 3. Section 3 of DOMA is therefore unconstitutional.”
Basically instead of just saying that section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional, Obama’s administration said its part of a larger system of nationwide institutional abuses against gay Americans throughout history and THUS the court should find DOMA unconstitutional as well. It sounds curiously like the historical testimony Olson and Boies offered in the Prop 8 trial.
Basically, it’s a huge boon for the gay community that really shakes up the remaining DOMA lawsuits with an implicit government admission that it has had a direct role in unconstitutional anti-gay discrimination, a history that must stop today—amazing!
One last thing: since the United States Office of Personnel Management has no dispute over the facts presented in Golinski’s case, Golinski has filed a brief for a summary judgement asking to skip a trial and judge the case based solely on legal facts; meaning that her case might get a ruling sooner rather than later.
Will courts strike down DOMA before next Election Day?