Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 11 / 15 March 2018

Federal judge in Oakland rules DOMA unconstitutional

A federal judge in Oakland has ruled the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

In a Thursday, May 24 ruling, Judge Claudia Wilken, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, granted judgment in favor of gay and lesbian state workers who, along with their registered domestic partners, are excluded from equal access to California’s Long-Term Care Program.

Wilken issued the ruling in Dragovich v. CalPERS, a class action lawsuit challenging DOMA, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriages, and other federal and state laws that regulate state sponsored long-term care plans.

The laws permit employees and many family members to join the plans but exclude the spouses and registered domestic partners of gay and lesbian workers. Wilken found that the statutory preclusion of gay and lesbian spouses and partners violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.

In a statement, plaintiff Michael Dragovich, said, “I’ve been in a committed relationship with my partner for more than 30 years.” The UCSF nurse, who joined the CalPERS plan as a state employee in 1997, continued, “I am so pleased that our relationship will now be treated equally to the committed relationships of my heterosexual co-workers.”

Elizabeth Kristen of Legal Aid Society­-Employment Law Center, one of the groups representing the plaintiffs, stated, “Lesbian and gay couples are entitled to fair and equal treatment from the federal government. Judge Wilken’s ruling ensures that both same-sex spouses and registered domestic partners will be treated fairly with respect to the CalPERS long term-care insurance program.”

Long-term care insurance provides coverage when a person needs help with basic activities due to chronic illness, injury, age, or a severe cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s.

Drew Hammill, spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), issued a statement today (Friday, May 25) in response to the ruling. Hammill said it’s the second case in which the House of Representatives’ Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, which has been defending DOMA, has lost on the merits.

“Yesterday’s court ruling again affirms that the equal protection of our laws extend to all Americans under our Constitution, and there is no legitimate federal interest in denying same-sex couples the legal security, rights, and responsibilities guaranteed to all married couples,” Hammill said. Wilken found that the arguments of House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) “taxpayer-funded lawyers did not demonstrate the furtherance of any legitimate federal interest,” he said.

Hammill called on Boehner and other Republican leaders to “stop spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to make arguments that insult millions of Americans and their families, and seek to perpetuate fundamental unfairness and discrimination.” He added, “As progress on marriage equality continues from all corners of our country, this court decision is another step forward in our fight to repeal DOMA and to ensure that every American has the freedom to marry.”

Thursday’s ruling is available at

— Seth Hemmelgarn, May 25, 2012 @ 8:50 am PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

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