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Judge orders compensation for gay couple denied benefits

A federal judge today ordered compensation for a Los Angeles couple denied spousal benefits by the federal government because they are gay men.

U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Reinhardt deemed the denial of healthcare and other benefits to the spouse of federal public defender Brad Levenson to be a violation of the Constitution's guarantee of due process and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which is prohibited by California state law.

Levenson married his longtime partner, Tony Sears, on July 12, 2008, during the five-month period when same-sex marriage was legal in California. A ballot measure, Proposition 8, was passed a year ago defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

Reinhardt, who is the federal judge responsible for resolving employee disputes in the Federal Public Defenders office within the 9th Circuit, had earlier ordered the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to process Levenson's application for spousal benefits for Sears. The federal government's Office of Personnel Management stepped in to derail the enrollment, however, citing the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that prohibits the recognition of same-sex marriage for the purpose of federal benefits or programs.

Levenson appealed, seeking either an independently contracted benefits package for his spouse or payment of the equivalent value of the coverage denied. Reinhardt ordered the latter, based on a "back pay" provision in the law covering federal defense lawyers' employment.

"Considering that the federal government won't give Tony the equal benefits package of other spouses, we are very pleased with this decision," said Levenson. "Is it equal treatment? No. Is it a good remedy? Yes. And we are appreciative of the judge's order."

Levenson said he and Sears have been keeping track of the costs of insuring Sears independently and estimate the back pay and future compensation will amount to thousands of dollars each year.

The judge's order is expected to resolve the injustice Reinhardt has cited in previous orders in Levenson's case. But it also recognizes the status quo of federal government rejection of gay marriage under the Defense of Marriage Act. Several other challenges by those denied federal benefits, like filing joint tax returns, are making their way slowly through the federal courts.

The Obama administration has spoken out against what it sees as a discriminatory policy toward gay spouses of federal employees but Atty. Gen. Eric Holder has also said his office is obliged to defend the practice as long as the Defense of Marriage Act remains law.

-- Carol J. Williams

Use The Times' interactive map to track changes in rights for same-sex couples in the U.S. since 2000

Click to view Times interactive map on gay marriage

Comments () | Archives (62)

Jack, you have a bit of a contradiction going on there. First you say “homosexuality is natural” just not “normal.” Then you talk about the “current homosexual” living out their ”unnatural lives”. So which is it? Natural or unnatural? You don’t seem too sure about your facts. And as far as wanting “fix” future offspring… how do you suppose that would work? Let’s be realistic here. Gay does not equal broken. There is nothing to fix. What gives you the idea of homosexuality being a “defect”? Maybe you should explore why you feel that way. What is it you are afraid of? Why should you care if a man loves another man or a woman loves another woman? How does this affect your life personally? You seem to be really concerned about the future generation of “offspring.” Guess what…in the very near future, generations of straight and gay young people are going to shine brilliantly as they educate themselves, for themselves; refusing to live in the dark shadows of misguided ideas and ‘values’. They are going to see the mistreatment and oppression of people based on their sexual orientation is wrong…that what they might have once believed (based on their parents and society’s ignorance) is wrong. People once believed the world was flat, but as we all know…they were wrong!

P.S. I’d never settle on being “normal”. I don’t like being mediocre. I will always strive to go beyond “normal” by leaps and bounds, making positive differences in our society because our future generation deserves better. Enough said. Have a great day!

The putrid stench passed off as "Law Enforcement" enables this swill.

What a disgrace! And with our tax dollars, too. I'm not surprised that it was a 9th Circuit judge - they are among the most far-out jurists around.

Rhonda M.....on behalf of my husband and me....In my opinion, you are a mess and you are a perversion.

Glenn N.

Well here we go again. Another activist judge who believes that he is a god and can do whatever he wants to without any regard to the laws or the constitution. It is blatantly clear that he overstepped his authority. But you have to remember that activist judges believe that they have no limits. They believe that the Constitution is a barrier to advance their agendas. It is time that we reform the Constitution to allow for judges to who ignore the constitution to be punished by the public. This judge should be impeached, but nobody has the political will to stand up for the Constitution. This should not even had been in a federal court as it was an issue of state law. It should have been immediately dismissed.

You know we have laws that prevent mothers from marrying sons, fathers from marrying daughters, aunts from marrying nephews, laws against marrying multiple people, laws against marrying animals, laws against bestiality, need I go on? Preventing men from marrying men and women from marrying women is absolutely no different than what I just mentioned. If you call laws against "gay" marriage unconstitutional you might as well go ahead and declare all the rest of the laws unconstitutional, because all the stuff I mentioned above is exactly where society is heading. All you have to do is look to Germany right now where this very fight is going on in a court for a sister to marry a brother, which is absolutely disgusting. This is exactly where America is heading and it's the agenda they are attempting to ram down everybody's throats. They know that activist courts are the only sympathetic forums for their views and these judges that they are accountable for to no one. These perverts look at the Constitution as a barrier to practice their devient behavior, so they have a sympathetic judge come in, who is probably some sort of pervert in him/herself, to completely and totally twist words and change the meaning of words in order to fit their agenda. This is the very thing that Thomas Jefferson warned against.

"On every question of construction carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed." --Thomas Jefferson to William Johnson, 1823. ME 15:449

I could go on and on about this stuff. But you have to remember, to liberals and Democrats, it doesn't matter. Common sense is something else that Thomas Jefferson said that is a major foundation of our laws. Unfortunately everything Democrats and liberals do is backwards. From "gay" marriage to socialism, it doesn't work. It never has.

Lets take this for example: Take one state, let all gays go and live there, and guess what would happen? No more people being born, diseases running rampant through society, and all that is just scratching the surface. It's society would collapse over night. But alas liberals don't care about anything except self-destruction.

How can people like Rhonda say such hurtful and hateful things?

Would it really be so hard to treat other people -- even gay people -- like human beings? People are just trying to love each other, form families, and have good lives. Why do people like Rhonda want to stand in the way of that? It's just hateful, plain and simple.

"Activist judge," the codeword for "judge whose decision I don't like." It's not this judge's fault that we've got a mess of laws in this country because half of it thinks that everyone has to use the word "marriage" like they do. The ironic thing is that if anything smacks of a liberal nanny-state, it's one in which the government tells you with whom you can make a contract. Well, that's actually the first ironic thing, the second is those same people talking about protecting the Constitution, as if they weren't the ones gutting its principles of equal protection under the law, or the full faith and credit clause.

Bigotry is a choice. Sexual orientation is not. It's great to see the courts treat Gay Americans fairly and not allow intolerance, ignorance, and hatred to rule the day!

Davina Kotulski, Ph.D.
Psychologist and Author of Why You Should Give A Damn About Gay Marriage!

Richard: "Gays don't need to be married to pas on the rights of a partner".

Which shows exactly how little people commenting against equality for gay couples know.

One example affecting many, immigration for bi national couples.

A man and a woman can rush into marriage real or not and obtain instant immigration rights based on that marriage. My American partner and I, in comparison, have been in a committed relationship for the last 10 years. As her partner I have no rights to immigration, unlike any heterosexual who can obtain a drive thru quickie in Las Vegas, for instant approval. We have been living in the UK for all of these 10 years. The first 4 were spent fighting the UK Home Office / immigration officials for our right to at least reside here. We had to go to court like criminals and beg just to be allowed to continue to live together in the same country. We finally won after a long, upsetting battle and shortly after the UK recognized same sex relationships, legally, through civil unions.

Yet America will not recognize our relationship - still. My partner is terribly home sick, her family miss her and she can not return to live, unless she returns permanently without me. It tears her and her family apart each passing year. It upsets me because our entire relationship is tinged with the sadness of initially have to constantly fight authorities for our right to be together and now because of how homesick my partner is. This affects whole families - families who don't care about their relatives sexual orientation but do care about only getting to see them once every few years because they can not live in the same country.

Easy solution I expect you are thinking, end the relationship and everyone else can be happy...If you have a significant other, who you would give your life for, then how would you feel if your relationship was up for the same belittlement?

We have gone through so much to be and stay together, we will always do what it takes...The insults of comparing us to paedophiles, murderers and to those wanting to marry objects and animals can continue to go in 'one ear and out the other' because that is ignorant opinion, however if people are going to try to state fact then a fact it should be.

And just what is with the "offspring" argument? [Heterosexual = Offspring. Same sex = perversion]. We are seriously over crowded throughout the entire world, we live in a time where it is worried how people will be able to continue to sustain themselves at the current rate of population growth. Do people honestly believe we need to worry about a lack of offspring, ever?

In the order of response:
@Posted by: Ron Raglin; since I don't practice any degrading forms of homo sex I have NOTHING to be ashamed of. I also advise you that if you banter about words and phrases, try to understand the meaning and context of the words you choose."Homophobic" loosely defined pertains to an UNNATURAL FEAR of homosexuals. The only question of unnatural at hand applies to this homosexual lifestyle...and I fear nothing except the condemnation of God Almighty...for good reason!
@Posted by: David; Too bad for you, the TRUTH is always independent of any crutch, horses or otherwise.
@Posted by: Tim Kelly; EVERYONE has a choice!
@Posted by: Glenn Edward; "Rhonda M.....on behalf of my husband and me....In my opinion, you are a mess and you are a perversion." Wait a second..."...my HUSBAND and me..." and you are "Glenn Edward"? Have you...and "your husband" ever made an appointment to have your perverted confusion diagnosed?
@Posted by: marc; "...what's it like - being the cranky old lunatic who needs to die before progress can be made"?...Absolutely and wonderfully guilt free, hemorrhoid free, AIDS free and exuberantly joyous! Thank you for asking.
@Whoever else; Sorry if I missed anybody.

Archangel, Gues you have no argument other then it offend your religious religious "beleifes: and right of to have superiority complex

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