(San Francisco, December 22, 2009) — Chief Judge of the Ninth U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals Alex Kozinski today issued an order confirming that the
U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has failed to appeal in a timely
fashion from his prior order that a married lesbian court employee is
entitled to spousal health insurance for her wife.
"Judge Kozinski meant what he said: Karen Golinski is entitled to be
treated equally as an employee of this federal court and her wife should be
eligible for health insurance just like other spouses," said Jennifer C.
Pizer, Senior Counsel at Lambda Legal. "And the judge cleared the way
today for Karen to take whatever action is needed to enforce her rights
Today's ruling explains that OPM's decision not to appeal makes the
November 19th order "final and preclusive on all issues decided therein as
to . . . [OPM] and the Administrative Office of the United States Courts"
including its "jurisdiction over governmental entities such as OPM." The
November order will be reviewed by the Ninth Circuit Judicial Council in an
appeal limited only to issues properly presented by Blue Cross/Blue Shield,
Golinski's insurer, which appealed timely.
Lambda Legal and Morrison & Foerster LLP represent Golinski in her
discrimination complaint against the federal court. Judge Kozinski
repeatedly has ordered that Golinski's wife, Amy Cunninghis, be enrolled in
Golinski's family insurance plan. But OPM has told Blue Cross not to
comply, while also declining to appear in the proceeding or otherwise to
provide its legal analysis to either Judge Kozinski or Golinski's counsel.
"OPM has waived its right to appeal Judge Kozinski's order," said Pizer.
"Their press statements have no legal effect, and they continue to ignore
Judge Kozinski's ruling that our Constitution empowers the federal courts
to end discrimination against court employees. It's hard to reconcile
their refusal to participate in this mandatory administrative process with
the Obama Administration's stated commitment to fair treatment of gay
people," added Pizer.
"My spouse Amy and I are bitterly disappointed by the government's
actions," said Golinski. "I followed the court's required procedures.
There are now two orders from Chief Judge Kozinski stating that I have
suffered discrimination and that the remedy is that my spouse should be
added to my family insurance plan. This costs the federal government not
one penny. Amy and I enter the new year still with unrelenting stress and
anxiety because her health insurance coverage is inadequate and costly."
Lambda Legal's Pizer represents Karen Golinski in this matter together with
James McGuire and Sarah Griswold of Morrison & Foerster LLP.