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Benefits fight brings lesbian couple to high court

BY LISA LEFF, ASSOCIATED PRESS

SAN FRANCISCO -- Like a lot of newlyweds, Karen Golinski was eager to enjoy the financial fruits of marriage. Within weeks of her wedding, she applied to add her spouse to her employer-sponsored health care plan, a move that would save the couple thousands of dollars a year.

Her ordinarily routine request still is being debated more than four years later, and by the likes of former attorneys general, a slew of senators, the Obama administration and possibly this week, the U.S. Supreme Court.

Because Golinski is married to another woman and works for the U.S. government, her claim for benefits has morphed into a multi-layered legal challenge to a 1996 law that prohibits the federal government from recognizing unions like hers.

The high court has scheduled a closed-door conference for Friday to review Golinski's case and four others that also seek to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act overwhelmingly approved by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton.

The purpose of the meeting is to decide which, if any, to put on the court's schedule for arguments next year.

The outcome carries economic and social consequences for gay, lesbian and bisexual couples, who now are unable to access Social Security survivor benefits, file joint income taxes, inherit a deceased spouse's pension or obtain family health insurance.

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