Wednesday, November 10, 2010

New DOMA suits expand issues beyond previous case

From MetroWeekly:

At first glance, the lawsuit looks similar to the Gill v. Office of Personnel Management lawsuit that resulted in a successful trial court ruling in July.

The lawsuit expands upon Gill, though, in a particularly significant way -- reaching to state and private corporation discriminatory treatment resulting from DOMA.

In Gill, only federal programs and federal government-provided benefits were questioned -- from Social Security to passports to taxes. In today's lawsuit, Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management, state and private entities' actions are brought into the lawsuit.

The actions are challenged not because of discretionary decisions made by the state or private entities, but instead because of those programs' adherence to federal laws and regulations. An example comes from Count IV of the complaint, Janet Geller and Joanne Marquis v. Timothy F. Geithner and Douglas H. Shulman:

Under existing [Internal Revenue Code] statutes and regulations as well as New Hampshire state law, Jo would receive a medical subsidy spousal benefit from the [New Hampshire Retirement System] to help pay for her legal spouse Jan’s private health insurance premiums, but for DOMA, 1 U.S.C. § 7, which prohibits the NHRS as a tax-qualified plan from providing the benefit to an otherwise qualified retiree’s spouse if that spouse is of the same sex.

With regards to private companies, GLAD's lawsuit details the actions taken by Bayer Corporation against Gerald V. Passaro II, the widower of Thomas M. Buckholz. Buckholz had been an employee of Bayer for more than 20 years. From the lawsuit:

Under the terms of the Bayer [Corporation Pension] Plan, and in compliance with applicable federal law, where a Participant, like Thomas Buckholz, who has vested and has a nonforfeitable right to benefits under the Bayer Plan, dies prior to his annuity start date, the Participant's surviving spouse shall be paid a Preretirement Survivor Annuity. (Bayer Plan, §5.6(a)).

As a result of the application of DOMA, 1 U.S.C. § 7, through ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code, Jerry has been denied the vested qualified preretirement survivor annuity (QPSA) available to all spouses of vested participants in defined benefit pension plans in the equivalent situation as Jerry finds himself today even though he is legally Tom's surviving spouse under Connecticut law.

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