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During the brief window in 2008 when the state of California permitted same-sex couples to marry, Karen Golinski and her longtime partner, Amy Cunninghis, were wed. Golinski, a staff attorney for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, then sought, as most newly-married employees would, to add her new spouse to the health insurance plan. (The couple’s minor adopted child was already covered under Golinski’s “family” benefits.) The federal administrative office in charge of such matters refused the request, however, because of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Section 3 provides that, for any federal law purpose, only a union between one man and one woman can be treated as a “marriage.”

Golinski sued, alleging that this provision of DOMA is unconstitutional. The federal district court that heard the case just ruled in her favor, in Golinski v. OPM. The court ruled, importantly, that statutory classifications that are made on the basis of sexual orientation—for example, a statutory rule that heterosexuals can marry but homosexuals can’t—deserve heightened judicial scrutiny. And, the court reasoned, the federal government’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriages cannot survive such scrutiny.



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