Judge rules OPM did not file timely appeal to deny benefits in Golinski case, OPM now cut out of proceding

You’ll recall that this is the case where a federal judge ruled that the Obama administration was discriminating against the wife of a lesbian federal court employee by refusing to provide health benefits to the spouse (the couple was legally married in California last year during the window of time in which gay couples were permitted to marry).

1. The administration went before the judge and argued that it shouldn’t be required to provide the health benefits because of DOMA (yes, the President was actually using DOMA to get out of proving health care to a lesbian). The administration lost. The judge ordered that the benefits be provided.

2. The Obama administration then went behind the judge’s back and told Blue Cross not to give the lesbian wife benefits. The judge then ruled again, demanding that the Obama administration provide the benefits.

3. The Obama administration then ignored the judge and issued two press releases saying they now didn’t recognize the judge’s authority.

4. The judge has now ruled again. And this time, he’s saying that because the administration didn’t even bother appealing his ruling – instead they simply issued two press releases late on a Friday (ostensibly hoping the gay community wouldn’t notice) – the judge now says that the administration is no longer permitted to attend the appeal before the entire 9th circuit.

Via Press Release from Lambda Legal, a major development in the case of Karen Golinski. Basically, the Federal judge determined that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) did not file an appeal of his order that Karen Golinski’s wife should be eligible for benefits as the spouse of a federal employee. His order is, therefore, final with respect to OPM.

This is important so I’m posting the entire release:

Chief Judge of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Alex Kozinski today issued an order confirming that the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has failed to appeal in a timely fashion from his prior order that a married lesbian court employee is entitled to spousal health insurance for her wife.

“Judge Kozinski meant what he said: Karen Golinski is entitled to be treated equally as an employee of this federal court and her wife should be eligible for health insurance just like other spouses,” said Jennifer C. Pizer, Senior Counsel at Lambda Legal. “And the judge cleared the way today for Karen to take whatever action is needed to enforce her rights against OPM.”

Today’s ruling explains that OPM’s decision not to appeal makes the November 19th order “final and preclusive on all issues decided therein as to . . . [OPM] and the Administrative Office of the United States Courts” including its “jurisdiction over governmental entities such as OPM.” The November order will be reviewed by the Ninth Circuit Judicial Council in an appeal limited only to issues properly presented by Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Golinski’s insurer, which appealed timely.

The rest is after the break.

Lambda Legal and Morrison & Foerster LLP represent Golinski in her discrimination complaint against the federal court. Judge Kozinski repeatedly has ordered that Golinski’s wife, Amy Cunninghis, be enrolled in Golinski’s family insurance plan. But OPM has told Blue Cross not to comply, while also declining to appear in the proceeding or otherwise to provide its legal analysis to either Judge Kozinski or Golinski’s counsel.

“OPM has waived its right to appeal Judge Kozinski’s order,” said Pizer. “Their press statements have no legal effect, and they continue to ignore Judge Kozinski’s ruling that our Constitution empowers the federal courts to end discrimination against court employees. It’s hard to reconcile their refusal to participate in this mandatory administrative process with the Obama Administration’s stated commitment to fair treatment of gay people,” added Pizer.

“My spouse Amy and I are bitterly disappointed by the government’s actions,” said Golinski. “I followed the court’s required procedures. There are now two orders from Chief Judge Kozinski stating that I have suffered discrimination and that the remedy is that my spouse should be added to my family insurance plan. This costs the federal government not one penny. Amy and I enter the new year still with unrelenting stress and anxiety because her health insurance coverage is inadequate and costly.”

Lambda Legal’s Pizer represents Karen Golinski in this matter together with James McGuire and Sarah Griswold of Morrison & Foerster LLP.

On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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