Gay, Lesbian Couples Entitled to Straight Treatment: Judge

Same-sex spouses of federal employees deserve health coverage and benefits, judge rules

Gay and lesbian spouses of federal employees are entitled to receive the same health coverage and other benefits as traditional straight couples, a federal judge ruled in a breakthrough decision in Los Angeles today.

Judge Stephen Reinhardt said in the ruling that the government's denial last year to grant health coverage to the husband of a deputy federal public defender amounted to unlawful discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Tony Sears, who married attorney Brad Levenson last July, applied for spousal benefits three days after the wedding but was denied because of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which refuses same-sex spouses access to benefits and healthcare.

Reinhardt called the denial "unconstitutional" and ordered the U.S. Courts administration to submit Sears' benefits election form.

The Defense of Marriage Act states that it was passed to "nurture" heterosexual marriage, "defend morality," and save government funding that would otherwise be used on same-sex healthcare.

Reinhardt said in the 15-page ruling that the cost of providing benefits to homosexual couples would be negligible and refuted the claim that denying same-sex spouses benefits would decrease the likelihood of gay or lesbian unions.

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