Will Golinski Ruling Bolster Gill v. OPM in First Circuit Appeal?

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

The Gill v. OPM plaintiffs got a boost this week with another federal court decision that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutionally discriminates against gay marriage. On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White ruled in Golinski v. OPM that DOMA Section 3 “treats gay men and lesbians differently on the basis of their sexual orientation” without any legal basis, and that “the imposition of subjective moral beliefs of a majority on a minority cannot provide a justification.”

The decision hit on many of the same points that District Judge Joseph Louis Tauro highlighted in his summary judgment ruling in favor of the Gill plaintiffs in 2010.

In the case filed in a California federal court, 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. (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 U.S. 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 had an opposite-sex spouse.

It's the same winning argument that the Gill plaintiffs made in the district court, and are now asserting before the First Circuit Court of Appeals.

Since Justice Department announced last year that it would no longer defend DOMA, a House of Representatives group called the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) is now defending DOMA in lawsuits against OPM, including the Gill and Golinski cases.

Briefing is now complete in Gill v. OPM. The parties are still awaiting oral argument before the First Circuit Court of Appeals.

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