Pay & Benefits Watch Pay & Benefits WatchPay & Benefits Watch
Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.

DOMA Still Dogs Domestic Partners of Feds


Last week appeared to bring some good news for same-sex partners of federal employees: A U.S. district judge ruled in favor of a federal employee seeking health insurance for her wife. But thanks to that pesky, politically explosive 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex partners and spouses of federal employees will have to settle for the status quo for now.

Judge Jeffrey White ruled in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California that DOMA should not prevent Karen Golinski, an attorney for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, from enrolling her wife in family coverage under Golinski’s Federal Employees Health Benefits Program insurance. According to Scotusblog, White ordered Justice Department lawyers to tell him how they could deny benefits to same-sex partners after the Obama administration switched course on defending the constitutionality of DOMA.

Attorneys for House Republicans plan to appeal the ruling, and it is not clear when or if Golinski’s wife might receive benefits, according to the Washington Post. Although the Obama administration is no longer defending the constitutionality of DOMA, it still must enforce it.

The Office of Personnel Management has been able to obtain some benefits for same-sex partners, but it’s been hamstrung by the 1996 statute, which contains a section barring the federal government from granting benefits to same-sex couples.

Executive agencies must continue to enforce that section regardless of the administration’s stance, which “accords appropriate deference to the Congress that enacted DOMA and allows the judiciary to be the final arbiter of DOMA’s constitutionality,” federal attorneys wrote Tuesday.

Currently, OPM must provide the same child care benefits to gay couples that it offers other federal employees who meet income requirements. The children of same-sex couples also are eligible to participate in the government’s drug and alcohol abuse programs.

OPM also announced in 2011 that several health plans would be made available to same-sex partners of federal employees beginning in 2012. But, participating plans are not officially under FEHBP and enrollees are eligible for individual rates only and must pay full premiums, rather than the 70 percent the government typically pays for federal employee premiums.

Despite those minor gains, policy analyst Walton Francis doesn’t see things looking up for gays and lesbians in the federal workforce anytime soon.

“Until or unless OPM announces that the courts have made a final ruling and there is no discretion on the issue, FEHBP plans will not be covering domestic partners,” Francis, author of Consumers’ Checkbook Guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees told Government Executive. “I wouldn’t hold my breath that there will be any such announcement this calendar year.”

Civilian vs. Military Benefits: Round 2

The debate over civilian versus military pay is beginning to resemble a bitter sibling rivalry: Defense hawks on Capitol Hill fought back this week at civilian worker groups that are demanding pay parity between military and civilians workers.

While the civilians argue the Obama administration’s fiscal 2013 budget proposal targets civilian pay and benefits more than the military’s, several Republican lawmakers this week said the opposite. Federal News Radio reports:

“DoD leaders got battered on both sides of the Capitol Tuesday, hearing complaints from Republican lawmakers in both the House and Senate that the military personnel proposals in President Obama’s 2013 budget unfairly target the uniformed military, while leaving civilians, both inside and outside of DoD relatively unscathed.”

It might not be an apples-to-apples argument: The lawmakers centered their gripes mostly on TRICARE fee increases, while civilians took aim at the differences in pension sacrifices demanded of the two groups in the budget proposal.

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.