Photo by Ernesto Benavides/AFP/Getty Images.
A federal judge on Thursday delivered the latest legal blow to the Defense of Marriage Act, ruling that a provision in the federal law that has been used to limit same-sex spouses of state workers in California from obtaining long-term care insurance is unconstitutional.
The San Jose Mercury News explains that U.S. district judge Claudia Wilken banned the California Public Employees' Retirement System, known as CalPERS, from using DOMA or a related tax provision from the Internal Revenue Service to deny same-sex couples and domestic partners their insurance rights.
The system had refused to let gay spouses enroll in its federally-approved program on the grounds they were excluded by DOMA, a law that bars federal recognition of same-sex couples and one that has been used to exclude gay and lesbian unions from various federal benefits.
The order marks the latest in a string of rulings deeming the law a violation of the Constitution's equal treatment clause, according to the New Civil Rights Movement. U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Tauro found DOMA unconstitutional in two cases on July 8, 2010 in Massachusetts. On June 13, the law was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California. Bush appointee and U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White ruled against the same section of DOMA as Wilken in a case also fighting the denial of health benefits to a same-sex partner.
In February 2011, both President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder publicly declared DOMA unconstitutional on behalf of the administration. Two companion bills to repeal DOMA are in the U.S. House and Senate now.
Judge Wilken was nominated by President Clinton and confirmed by the Senate in 1993. The full text of the 41-page order is available via Metro Weekly here.