Court hears arguments in same-sex benefits case

December 16, 2011 6:54:55 PM PST
Partisan politics are being played out in a San Francisco federal court. The Obama administration says it will not defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA, because it's unconstitutional.

A legal advisory group led by House Speaker John Boehner has hired lawyers to defend the law.

On Friday, both sides presented their arguments before a federal judge.

The legal advisory group now defending DOMA is comprised of three Republicans and two Democrats. DOMA says same-sex couples who are legally married in seven states, including California, are not entitled to a number of federal benefits.

Karen Golinski, who works for the federal government, was denied health benefits for her wife under DOMA.

"I have to pay for a separate policy," said Golinski. "I am lucky that I can even afford to cover my spouse when all of my colleagues, who are legally married, put their spouse on the minute they walk in the door."

The Obama administration says DOMA is unconstitutional and that's why the Department of Justice argued it in court on Friday. Golisnki's attorneys are asking the court to rule in her favor.

"This case is really about whether Karen should be compensated differently because of the sex of her spouse," said Lin.

But that is where the House of Representatives and its bipartisan advisory group steps in. The advisory group is comprised of five House members, including Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

The group voted 3-2 along party lines to defend DOMA in court and ask that Golinski's case be dismissed.

In court, the attorney for the House advisory group said Congress "gets to draw the lines of which benefits it wants to give and has done so."

In the meantime, even though the U.S. Department of Justice argued the law is unconstitutional, it must continue enforcing it until a court decides otherwise.

"Ms. Golinski and other who are just like her are still going to be denied federal benefits," said Tony West with the Department of Justice. "As long as that happens, we need to have courts weigh in on the constitutionality of that statute."

The judge did not make any rulings from the bench on Friday. It's hard to say how long Judge Jeffrey White will take to do so, but attorneys have said it's likely the case will end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.


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