Golinski v. United States: A Look at Employee-Employer Issues Involving DOMA and Gay Marriage in Massachusetts

Bloomberg Businessweek is reporting House Speaker John Boehner is among Republicans defending the Defense of Marriage Act to a federal judge in a suit claiming the act violates the fundamental rights of the lesbian plaintiff.

In June, New York became the sixth state to legalize same sex marriages, along with Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut and Iowa. Boston employment attorneys have seen how the gay marriage issue may complicate employment issues when dealing with both state and federal regulations. In some cases, employees are moving to hold employers liable for discrimination based on sexual orientation when it comes to benefits and other legal and financial issues. In other cases, employees are seeking to defend themselves, using federal law and the Defense of Marriage Act, which currently does not recognize same-sex marriages as legal unions. 1191968_solitary_walk.jpg

Signed into law by President Clinton in 1996, the law defines marriage as being between one man and one woman. The law also bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages and permits states to pass laws that decline to recognize them as well.

Last year, a federal employee sued, seeking to extend health benefits to her wife. Boehner was among Republicans who submitted a defense of DOMA to the U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

“There is nothing intrusive in the least about DOMA,” the congressmen said. “It is simply a definitional statute that defines, for federal law purposes, marriage and spouse.”

The woman’s attorney said her client would be paid differently as a man, which is inherently unfair.

A hearing is scheduled Dec. 16. the case is Golinski v. United States Office of Personnel Management, 10-cv-00257, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

When Massachusetts’ same-sex marriage law was passed in May 2004 — Massachusetts became the first state in the U.S. to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. However, couples are currently not eligible to receive federal recognition.

M.G.L.c. 151B, ยง4 states that “(i)t is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee based on his/her sexual orientation.”

Meanwhile, Goodridge v. Mass Department of Health, the Massachusetts gay marriage decision, found that “a person who enters into an intimate, exclusive union with another of the same sex is arbitrarily deprived of membership in one of our community’s most rewarding and cherished institutions. That exclusion is incompatible with the constitutional principles of respect for individual autonomy and equality under law.”

Keeping up with today’s legal landscape as it relates to Massachusetts employment and business law requires a law firm focused on the issues facing today’s businesses. Discrimination and sexual harassment claims are complex and serious cases. The DOMA and Massachusetts gay-marriage rights further complicate the issues.

A Boston small business law firm, The Brown Law Firm, LLC, has offices in Belmont and Boston. For a free and confidential consultation, call 617-489-0817 or contact us through this website.

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