Barack Obama | DOMA | John Berry | News

Defying Judge's Order, White House Instructs Personnel Agency to Obstruct Health Benefits to Spouse of Lesbian Employee

Back in February I posted about a ruling by a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judge regarding the offering of health benefits to the spouse of a lesbian employee in a decision it appeared would directly challenge DOMA.

Berry Michelangelo Signorile points out some troubling activity on this case which was just written up in TIME:

" was actually going to happen until the White House, through the Office of Personnel Management -- headed by openly gay appointee, John Berry -- refused to comply and directed the health insurance carrier of the employee not to proceed [all bold below is mine]:

The order was not published, and garnered little or no notice at the time. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts moved to comply with the judge's ruling, submitting [federal employee] Golinski's insurance form to Blue Cross Blue Shield, and the case would have probably gone away — had the Obama Administration not stepped in. "After the AO submitted Ms. Golinski's form, I thought this matter had concluded," [Judge] Kozinski wrote. "The Executive Branch, acting through the Office of Personnel Management, thought otherwise. It directed the insurance carrier not to process Ms. Golinski's form 2809, thwarting the relief I had ordered. I must now decide what further steps are necessary to protect Ms. Golinski and the integrity of the Judiciary's EDR [employee dispute resolution] plans."

Now Judge Kozinkski has ordered that OPM stop interfering, demanding last week that the Obama administration comply with his order.

The White House has a month to respond: "[Judge Kozinski's] order last week demanded that the executive branch reverse course, and gave the Administration 30 days to enroll Golinski's wife as her health-insurance beneficiary. He made clear that if it doesn't, he's ready to use the powers of his court to enforce his decree."

And the sadder "personnel" irony here, Signorile notes, is that the OPM is headed by John Berry, the highest-ranking gay official in the Obama administration:

"...the Office of Personnel Management was ordered by the White House to refuse to give a lesbian federal employees her court-ordered rights. John Berry, as head of that office, was thus apparently forced as an openly gay man to deny another gay person, and the LGBT movement itself, of rights, even in the face or a court order. Is this how openly gay appointees must operate within the Obama administration -- not as advocates on behalf of civil rights but rather as lackeys charged with blocking equal rights for their own kind?"

California Judge Challenging Obama on Gay Rights [time]
Did Highest-Ranking Gay Official Thwart Equal Rights? [signorile]

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  1. So this was our fierce advocate i'd rather ssome one else every chance this administration gets it refuses to do the right thing. When GLBT community gets upset a scrap is thrown from the table and told be happy. The administration says it must defend the laws dadt doma but want the Constitution the supreme law of the land Equal rights for all is the law Defend it.

    Posted by: walter | Nov 27, 2009 8:35:56 PM

  2. Obama continues to throw gays & lesbians under the bus.

    And yet there are still some in the GLBT community who are so blind to this and refuse to see the harm is doing us. He LIED to us to get elected. I voted for him thinking he would help advance EQUAL RIGHTS for us. But we keep seeing time and time again, Obama insulting in more than one.

    He is not fierce advocate.

    When you ignore your VOTING BASE, your voting base will ignore you.

    The days of "where are they going to go?" or "what if we had a Sarah Palin"

    If Obama becomes a 1 term President, he can only look in the mirror to find out whose fault it is.

    My fault will never again be taken for granted.

    The threat that the republiCON s are worse is not enough.

    You have to fight for GLBT rights too if you want my vote. Otherwise, forget it.

    I am beyond amazed on how stupid Obama is by throwing so many of his voters under the bus thinking we will be fine with that.

    If we lose Congress and the Senate, it will be Obama's fault, not mine.

    You satisfy your base not alienate it if you want their vote.

    Posted by: FunMe | Nov 27, 2009 8:47:35 PM

  3. It's SOP for administrations to wait for courts in the second circuit to rule, or SCOTUS, before submitting to a ruling, largely because there may be conflicting precedent. 9th circuit rulings only cover west coast federal employees anyway, not the vast majority in DC. Also, it's SOP to wait for the full court to rule. Changing their SOP's for a particular case would lead to administrative confusion, so they don't do it. There are cases where a ruling is implemented provisionally, but this is often for post hoc cases, like settling survivor benefits disputes by instituting escrow accounts while appeals go on. Courts also have limited enforcement powers, so their rulings are ignored by private citizens and corporations all the time while appeals go on. Remember, it took US troops to enforce Brown v BOETK under Eisenhower's orders.

    Posted by: anon | Nov 27, 2009 9:21:44 PM

  4. If the Administration simply went withe ruling, every gay employee would have to fight a court battle to get their one-off special exclusion as well.

    The Administration has to enforce the law as it stands. But, by doing this, they are effectively pushing the case up the court system to the Supreme court, or raising enough stink to cause Congress to overturn it.

    By enforcing a bad law, they are speeding the legal process that will lead to its death.

    Otherwise, every single gay person would have to fight a court case to get a waiver for their spouse. By fighting this ONE case ( and violating a judge's orders, which judges never like ), they are hastening the death of a bad law for all gays.

    Posted by: Dan | Nov 28, 2009 1:53:39 AM

  5. InExile asked would Hillary Clinton have been a better POTUS.

    HMMMMM well lets see. She stood behind and supported Bill in 2 things that has been awful for the Gay Community and that is
    D.A.D.T and D.O.M.A regardless of what HE SIGNED IT!

    Also she has stated at the LOGO debates that she does NOT support Gay Marriage but she does believe in Civil Unions just like Obama.

    Now InExile my dear that is NOT A FIERCE ADVOCATE neither. But I don't understand how our community loves The Clinton's in spite of. However, I don't.

    But Funme you make a point about "You satisfy your base not alienate it if you want their vote" However, I personally feel like this in many ways we have all of a sudden become so IMPATIENT with this Man in 11 months but sat there for 8 years loving Bill, supporting Bill while we was ran over by a cruise ship under his watch and yet everyone still loves Bill. HMMMMMM I'll never get that one.

    But anyway if you're not happy you have every right not to vote for Obama in 2012. However, for Obama it will stil be a win in the end and for us if a Republican gets in especially with the rise of the right wing crazies and religious fury going on. It will be a total lost!!!

    I believe the real enemy is Rahm Emanuel being the Chief of Staff if i'm not mistaken he is the one who runs the show with all of this and maybe Obama needs to ask him to step down or simply stop this. And if it is Pres Obama then he needs to stop talking out of two side of his mouth and just be real with us!!!!!

    Then at least we'll know. Because right about now everybody screaming Obama. But truth be told where does your local representative stand with us?

    Posted by: Bisou | Nov 28, 2009 2:03:36 AM

  6. Obama is just as bad as the Bush people were. At least they were upfront about it. I'm tired of hearing the execuses his defenders will give. If he had a SPINE, he could get rid of DOMA and DADT like he said would. Oops, we're not doing well in polls,backtrack time. He is nothing but a spineless coward... just like Clinton was. DOMA was passed under Clinton's watch.. and we know how well he defended marriage, just like the hyprocrites that impeached him.

    Posted by: Zach | Nov 28, 2009 2:38:55 AM

  7. Why is it "progress", so far as OUR civil rights are concerned, is so incremental and dependent on so much randomness and the convenience of the day ?

    I understand strategy, I understand how our system of checks and balances works, and I understand all the issues the current administration has on it's plate, and that we simply do not rate very high.

    I also understand that so long as our civil rights remain an issue, for the Left AND the Right to use for their OWN ends, there is zero incentive for significant progress, much less any semblance of "full equality".

    The left uses us as their ATM. The right uses us to polarize and motivate their bigot base and those votes.

    Face it, the system is set up to screw us.

    I think it's time we screwed it back.

    Interpret THAT as you may.

    Posted by: NVTodd | Nov 28, 2009 5:16:11 AM

  8. I'm really hoping the judge has the authority to put Mr. Berry's ass in jail. This anti-gay crap needs to stop. Maybe putting someone from this administration in jail will light a fire under their collective asses. Repeal DOMA now. Not 4 years from now, not 10 years from now. Just do it!

    Posted by: David in Houston | Nov 28, 2009 9:40:27 AM

  9. Anyone who thinks we have an ally in Obama is deluded. It's that simple.
    DOMA or not, it was possible for OPM to institute this ruling if the WH had not interfered.

    Posted by: shane | Nov 28, 2009 9:59:38 AM

  10. Yep. Hillary would have been better. She always mentioned championing for the "invisible". We are in that group. Without money or clout to offer Obama, he doesn't need us. But add the women he's offended to the gays and we've got a coalition. Now we have to convince Obama's supporters that there is no 11th dimensional chess going on here. Obama is a closet homo-hater. Just ask Donnie McClurkin. I guess he really thinks he can get the right wing religious zealots to vote for him. Anybody that still believes him is very naive.

    Posted by: glennmcgahee | Nov 28, 2009 11:06:27 AM

  11. "Obama is just as bad as the Bush people were. At least they were upfront about it."

    I never quite get those who give people credit for being up front bigots. Or those who say McCain would have been better because at least we knew he was anti-gay across the board. Sally Kern is even more up front in her anti-gay zeal--should we vote for her because she's so admirably honest?

    As for Hillary, I have nothing against her. If she'd been elected, I would have been cheering on election night. But there's no evidence to support the idea that she would have been better on gay rights. None. But it's beside the point. She and McCain lost! Imagining what they would have done accomplishes zilch.

    I'm not defending Obama on this, but we have a president who has made promises, and we can hold him--and our $/votes--to those promises. We have a high-level gay appointee who should be able to understand the concerns and respond to them. Already that's better than Bush/McCain etc. (Not to mention the myriad ways Obama is better than them if you believe in the Democratic platform.) So we keep the critical pressure on, but get real with the respect for open homophobes and the Hillary would have us married by now delusions.

    Posted by: Ernie | Nov 28, 2009 11:35:30 AM

  12. This is something I never thought I would see. Kozinski, who is a famously noted CONSERVATIVE (albeit a brilliant and funny man, and a terrific writer to boot), is ordering OBAMA to give a gay spouse health benefits.

    Has the world gone mad? Next thing we know, Scalia will agree that the First Amendment requires freedom FROM religion as well...

    Posted by: Jackson | Nov 28, 2009 12:08:01 PM

  13. Obama = Fail - Ok people we all get it. We aren't happy with Mr. Obama and his administration. Enough with this completely juvenille response! You all act like this is the first time a political official has misled any of us gay or straight. It's not. No matter who's in office and what position they hold, most of their promises and words are just that - HOT AIR.

    Posted by: RT | Nov 28, 2009 12:45:48 PM

  14. Thanks, G. Gomez, for a little clarity and sanity on this issue (non). You are right. The Obama Justice Dept. is obligated to carry out laws passed by Congress and this falls under the DOMA, regrettably passed under a republicon-dominated House and a cowardly Senate and signed into law by WJ Clinton. Mr. Obama gets the blame for everything these days by the left and the right. If it isn't the whiney-cons griping, then it's the libbie-twits griping. We haven't even hit a year yet and already one reads the political obituaries for Mr. Obama's presidency! Give the man a BREAK for crissake!!

    Posted by: jamal49 | Nov 28, 2009 2:24:25 PM

  15. @Dave, that's an optimistic view. But this administration is lazy on gay people's rights. Remember the disgusting DOMA brief defending it with all the vitriol it could muster? and then later on the White House top staff and Obama himself stated they didn't bother to read it? And then they did, and found out it was in fact full of disgusting rationale?

    I doubt the White House is very much on top of their game in terms of gay rights strategy. They let a major debacle, DOMA, show how ill-equipped and uncaring they are in terms of gay people's rights.

    Posted by: Randy | Nov 28, 2009 3:06:00 PM

  16. Actually, Jamal, the POTUS has the legal right to NOT challenge these laws in the courts; all the past POTUS to Carter (for recent history) have elected not to challenges laws they did not agree with. Clearly Obama agrees with the law, at least from a political perspective and is more concerned with re-election than doing the right and legal thing.

    Which means I am going to go out of my way to NOT vote for this jerk in 2012.

    Posted by: DR | Nov 28, 2009 3:50:03 PM

  17. @glennmcgahee you said" Yep. Hillary would have been better. She always mentioned championing for the "invisible". We are in that group"

    Miss girl stop drinking! What invisible group we're in Gays are OUT AND LOUD. This woman has said time in and time out that SHE BELIEVES MARRIAGE IS BETWEEN A MAN AND A WOMAN!!!! wake up queen she isn't totally our ally neither. But the kids will find an excuse to give Hillary a pass.

    You also said:"Obama is a closet homo-hater. Just ask Donnie McClurkin. I guess he really thinks he can get the right wing religious zealots to vote for him. Anybody that still believes him is very naive"

    Exactly Glenn just like the mostly white congress girl their homo haters as well. The only difference here is this

    Donnie McClurkin can scream across a pulpit like the idiot he is and it has NO EFFECT on this community. However, the mostly white bigots in congress. Can have a long lasting, devastating EFFECT on this community they always have and always will.

    So I'm not defending Obama. But I will say this. All of this OMAMA=FAIL,NObama, The Messiah, etc.
    In the end for him it's still a win-win.If he loses he has already made history and he will go on speaking tours, write books and make millions and take him and his family and ride off into the sunset.

    As for us Gays? Well we'll get a Republican President like we all agree at least they're upfront who will probably find a way to water down if not get rid of the hate crimes bill, who will put the HIV travel ban back into effect,No repealing of DOMA,DADT,and ENDA on the other hand might make them strongr than what they already are. And will still continue to make LGBTQ life in America an American tragedy.

    And that won't have shit to do with Nobama!

    Posted by: Bisou | Nov 29, 2009 1:17:53 AM

  18. I don't pretend to know all the ins and outs of this case, but I will say that disregarding the orders of a federal judge is NOT something that the executive branch normally does. If we really do have 3 separate and equal branches of government, I do not see how the administration can justify defiance of a judge's order.

    Posted by: Z | Nov 29, 2009 1:11:29 PM

  19. John Berry: Quisling.

    Posted by: TechBear | Nov 30, 2009 1:19:57 PM

  20. What do we truly expect? We are established from DAY ONE as the p*ssies of the playground - the ones you pick on and tease, bully and beat up, exclude from games, and consider wimps. K-12.

    Now as adults it's high school all over again; the f*ggots never stand up for themselves. EVER. (so rare we may as well say NEVER)

    But this time we're paying taxes for the pleasure of being dismissed and excluded. Too bad we'll never know how fast a TAX REVOLT could speed things up in America.

    Posted by: John Bisceglia | Dec 3, 2009 4:37:27 PM

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