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Judge: DOMA unconstitutional; U.S. can't deny health benefits to wife of lesbian federal worker

BY LISA LEFF, ASSOCIATED PRESS

SAN FRANCISCO -- The government cannot deny health benefits to the wife of a lesbian court employee by relying on the 1996 law that bars government recognition of same-sex unions, a federal judge has ruled.

In Wednesday's ruling, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White said the government's refusal to furnish health insurance to Karen Golinski's wife is unjustified because the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutionally discriminates against same-sex married couples.

Golinski, a staff lawyer for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, has been trying to secure spousal benefits for her wife, Amy Cunninghis, since shortly after the couple got married during the brief window in 2008 when same-sex marriages were legal in California. Her boss, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, approved her request, but the Office of Personnel Management ordered Golinski's insurer not to process her application.

After Golinski sued, the Department of Justice originally opposed her in court but changed course last year after President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder said they would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act.

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