Federal Judge Orders Compensation For Gay Couple Denied Benefits

Today’s Los Angeles Times, LA Now, reported that U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Reinhardt has ordered compensation for a Los Angeles couple denied spousal benefits by the federal government because they are gay men.

The couple, both federal employees, married during the five-month period when same-sex marriage was legal in California.

Reinhardt had earlier ordered the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to process Levenson’s application for spousal benefits for Sears.  Citing the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, however, the Office of Personnel Management blocked the judge’s order.

Levenson appealed, seeking either an independently contracted benefits package for his spouse or payment of the equivalent value of the coverage denied. Reinhardt ordered the latter, based on a “back pay” provision in the law covering federal defense lawyers’ employment.  The judge concluded that the government’s actions in denying the benefits was a violation of the Constitution’s guarantee of due process and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which is prohibited by California state law.

The judge’s order is expected to resolve the injustice Reinhardt has cited in previous orders in Levenson’s case.  A copy of the full text of the original case involving these parties, In re Levenson, is in the Box.net on this site.  Click on the download with NRS in the title, and you should receive a PDF from