Federal Judge in California Strikes Down Key Provision of DOMA

A federal judge in California tonight struck down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as applied to a federal employee who sought benefits for her same-sex spouse.

While this is not the first time a federal court has struck down a provision of DOMA, it is the first ruling to come since the Obama administration determined it would no longer defend the federal law that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. Lawyers hired by the Republican leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives are now defending the law in court.

Karen Golinski, a lesbian woman married to her spouse under California law, brought the suit after she was unable to secure federal health benefits for her same-sex spouse.

U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey S. White said, "In this matter, the court finds that DOMA, as applied to Ms. Golinski, violates her right to equal protection of the law under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution by, without substantial justification or rational basis, refusing to recognize her lawful marriage to prevent provision of health insurance coverage to her spouse."

Lambda Legal Defense Fund, which represented Golinski, praised the ruling.

"We are thrilled," said John Davidson, legal director at Lambda Legal. "This is a grand slam for us. Judge White agreed that sexual orientation discrimination should be given heightened judicial scrutiny and there is not even a rational justification for DOMA's discrimination. Courts should regard with suspicion government discrimination based on sexual orientation."