OPB Radio Features Pamela Jacklin in Analysis of Domestic Partner Benefits Ruling
Stoel Rives retired partner Pamela Jacklin
recently discussed her success at winning health care benefits for the same-sex partner of a federal court employee with David Miller of OPB Public Radio
Margaret "Gosia" Fonberg works as a law clerk for the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. She wanted to enroll her domestic partner, Laura, in health benefits through her employer. However, when she applied for coverage, she was denied on the grounds that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal law that restricts marriage to one man and one woman, limits family coverage to opposite-sex spouses. Fonberg was unwilling to accept the denial of benefits from her employer. Jacklin took on the pro bono case, filing a discrimination complaint, and has continued her representation since her retirement.
DOMA has been challenged many times. However, instead of challenging DOMA directly, or concentrating on the plaintiff's sexual orientation, as has been done in other DOMA challenges, Jacklin hinged her case primarily on Fonberg's gender. If Fonberg were a man, Jacklin argued, she could legally marry Laura, and therefore her partner would be eligible for health benefits. Judge Ann Aiken ruled in Fonberg's favor, saying that the denial of health care benefits was unlawful sex discrimination and that DOMA did not prevent the court from providing Fonberg a reimbursement allowance to compensate her for the benefits denied to her under the federal health plan.
"Sidestepping DOMA?" was broadcast on the Think Out Loud program by OPB Public Radio, Aug. 10, 2011.