May 3, 2012
The Obama administration has told government agencies that a court decision allowing health benefits for the same-sex spouse of a federal employee applies to no one else.
The directive from the Office of Personnel Management is not surprising. After a federal district court ruling in February, OPM told Blue Cross Blue Shield to provide benefits to the wife of Karen Golinski, a court employee in California. But the OPM letter also said the decision “has no effect on enrollments requested by other same-sex spouses.”
Instructions issued by OPM on Wednesday make that policy explicit for federal human resource officials.
“The ruling in the Golinski case does not apply to anyone other than Ms. Golinski. OPM has been directed by the Department of Justice to continue applying the Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA] to all other situations,” said the OPM directive.
“Therefore, if you receive a request to enroll a same-sex spouse, you are still precluded by DOMA from processing the enrollment request or sending it to the FEHB [Federal Employees Health Benefits] plan.”
The administration is in the strange position of enforcing DOMA, a law President Obama would like repealed and a law the Justice Department no longer defends in court. DOMA defines marriage for federal purposes as a union only between a man and a woman.