Lead gay legal group sues senior openly-gay Obama official for anti-gay discrimination

You just can’t make this stuff up. From Lambda Legal, the gay ACLU:

Lambda Legal today filed a brief in federal district court in San Francisco on behalf of our client, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals staff lawyer Karen Golinski, who has been litigating to get equal health benefits for her wife since the fall of 2008. … (T)he Ninth Circuit’s personnel policies prohibit sexual orientation discrimination and require employees to file all discrimination complaints within the court’s dispute resolution process rather than going directly to court. Karen has followed that procedure diligently.

Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski has issued four orders in Karen’s case directing that the federal courts’ Administrative Office process the paperwork to enroll Golinski’s wife in Golinski’s family insurance plan, but the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) consistently has blocked the enrollment. Kozinski repeatedly has ordered OPM to stop interfering with this Judicial Branch personnel matter, but OPM has both defied those orders and declined to participate in the court’s mandatory complaint process. Kozinski ruled last December that OPM’s persistent choice not to participate in the court’s process means the agency has waived its chance to object to his analysis and orders.

Golinski sued OPM in federal court in January for an order requiring OPM to stop interfering with her benefits, and for prompt inclusion of her wife in the family’s health plan. Despite Kozinski’s waiver ruling of last year, OPM now argues — in briefs filed on March 2nd and March 12th — a full range of issues against Golinski’s request. … (W)e filed an amended complaint on Karen’s behalf a couple of weeks ago to add John Berry, in his official capacity as the director of OPM, as an individual defendant. Because Kozinski addressed his orders to OPM institutionally, we did not initially think it was essential to name Berry. In light of some peculiar arguments made by the U.S. Department of Justice on OPM’s behalf, however, we concluded it is better that we name him, ironic as it may seem to have a person many believe to be the highest ranking openly gay person in the Obama Administration named as a defendant in a case like this.

The brief filed today on Karen’s behalf explains why all of OPM’s arguments are mistaken to the extent they even make sense, and why her wife should be included in Karen’s family plan during the course of the lawsuit. In particular, our brief explains that a legal action against the federal government applies against the entire government; that the federal government is not immune from orders issued by other parts of the federal government; and that including Karen’s wife in the family’s health plan now will save the government money.

In connection with our filing today, Lambda Legal Marriage Project Director Jennifer Pizer issued this statement:

“The Obama Administration’s legal brief fighting health insurance for Karen Golinski’s wife is a strange collection of misreadings and misapplications of federal law adding up to a colossal cognitive disconnect. The arguments would be odd enough coming from this President, who rightly says the so-called ‘Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is “abhorrent.”‘ They are downright bizarre coming as he pulls out all stops to persuade Congress and the American people that everyone must have health insurance and that we must act now. Yet his lawyers argue here that the public interest is best served by reflexively asserting DOMA to block insurance for Golinski’s family, and to uphold a repugnant tradition of antigay discrimination, even though multiple judicial orders confirm that DOMA does not apply.”

The case is now named Golinski v. U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and John Berry, Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, in his official capacity. Golinski is represented by Pizer and James R. McGuire, Gregory P. Dresser, Rita F. Lin and Grace Y. Park of Morrison & Foerster LLP in San Francisco.

Fierce defendant.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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