Same sex spouse coverage

According to the Windy City Times, two different Ninth Circuit judges have ruled that FEHB coverage should be extended to the same sex spouses of court employees, notwithstanding the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The DOMA, 1 U.S.C. § 7, reads as follows:

In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word “marriage” means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word “spouse” refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.

Like it or not, the DOMA applies to the FEHB Act, 5 U.S.C. § 8901, 8906, which extends coverage to the enrollee’s “spouse” and dependent children if the enrollee elects family coverage.

These rulings were made in response to internal complaints and therefore have limited precedential value. We shall have to wait and see whether Congress repeals the Defense of Marriage Act and/or extends FEHBP coverage to domestic partners / same sex spouses this year. I expect that these ruling will provide momentum to the legislative efforts.