Federal Judge Rules U.S. Agency Has Waived Right to Appeal Order Requiring Health Insurance for Wife of 9th Circuit Employee and Lambda Legal Client

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“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.”
December 22, 2009

(San Francisco, December 22, 2009) — 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.

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.

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Contact Info

Contact: Tom Warnke; 213-382-7600 ex 247;twarnke@lambdalegal.org

Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education, and public policy work.

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