SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

November 25, 2012

Benefits fight brings lesbian couple to high court

(Continued)

Because of DOMA, she said, “we don’t get access to a whole slew of benefits.”

The Department of Justice originally opposed Golinski in court but changed course last year after President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder said they would no longer defend the law.

Republican members of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, which oversees legal activities of the House of Representatives, voted to hire an outside lawyer first to back the act in Golinski’s case and the four others, and to then appeal the rulings on its unconstitutionality.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White handed Cunninghis and Golinski an unequivocal victory in February, finding that anti-gay sentiment motivated Congress to pass DOMA.

In ordering the government to allow Golinski to enroll her wife in a family health plan, White rejected all of the House group’s arguments, including that the law was necessary to foster stable unions among men and women.

A group of 10 U.S. senators who voted for DOMA in 1996 have filed a brief with the Supreme Court angrily denouncing the judge’s opinion and urging the high court to overturn it.

“It is one thing for the District Court to conclude that traditional moral views, standing alone, do not justify the enactment of DOMA; it is quite another to find that legislators who hold or express such moral views somehow taint the constitutionality of the statute,” they said.

Former U.S. Attorneys General John Ashcroft and Edwin Meese also weighed in, telling the court that Obama had failed in his duty and set a dangerous precedent by declining to defend DOMA.

As a result of White’s ruling, Cunninghis was allowed in March to be added to Golinski’s health plan.

Golinski so far is the only gay American who has been allowed to begin receiving federal benefits while DOMA remains in effect, a development that could be reversed if the Supreme Court upholds DOMA.

Until then, the couple said they are going to trust that the tide of history is moving toward gay rights.

“It seems so simple to us: just put me on the family health plan,” Cunninghis said. “It’s much bigger than that obviously, yet it isn’t.”

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