Judge rules same-sex couple must be repaid
By Denny Walsh, The Sacramento Bee
Nov. 19- A judge ruled Wednesday an assistant federal public defender's spouse must be compensated for health care benefits withheld since July 2008 because the couple are gay.
Stephen Reinhardt, a member of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, also reminded the bureaucracy that he decreed nine months ago in the same case that withholding benefits based on sexual orientation violates the U.S. Constitution's due process guarantee and the circuit's employment dispute resolution plan for federal public defenders and their staffs.
In his order Wednesday, Reinhardt wrote there is no rational basis for denying benefits to same-sex spouses of federal public defender employees while granting them to opposite-sex spouses of employees. "I conclude that the application of DOMA -- to reach that result is unconstitutional."
Reinhardt was writing not in his capacity as a federal appellate judge but as an employer's representative in a grievance procedure. Consequently, the ruling applies only to Levenson and Sears.
Applying that standard to Levenson's case, "the challenged denial of benefits is constitutional only if there is a rational basis," Reinhardt wrote. "No such basis exists."
"Thus," Reinhardt concluded, "the denial of federal benefits to same- sex spouses cannot be justified as an expression of the government's disapproval of homosexuality, preference for heterosexuality, or desire to discourage gay marriage."