Good News from the Courts

In a series of personnel decisions involving court employees, two senior federal court judges in California have recently ruled that same-sex spouses of employees are entitled to the same insurance benefits as opposite-sex spouses. While not binding on any other institutions or courts, these rulings are likely to be persuasive regarding future claims by similar couples, and could indicate a welcome attitude within the federal court system. Judge Reinhardt and Judge Kozinski both found the federal denial of benefits to same-sex couples to be unjustified, and stated that the Defense of Marriage Act could not be used to defend such practices. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has long had a liberal reputation, but these are influential judges whose opinions will be respected by other judges.

In New York, the Court of Appeals affirmed the recognition of an out-of-state same-sex marriage by a county agency, and a state agency. And, while the court did not go so far as to give blanket recognition of the relationship for all legal purposes, their affirmation of these particular rulings is meaningful. New York State has been a roller coaster with regard to legalization of same-sex marriage, and the growing trend towards recognition of out-of-state marriages is an important factor in the politics of marriage equality.

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