Gosia Fonberg works as a clerk for the U.S. District of Oregon Court. She wanted to get health benefits for her domestic partner, Laura. But when she applied for coverage, she was denied on the grounds of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal law that restricts marriage to one man and one woman. But rather than accept the denial of benefits from her employer, she hired a lawyer and filed a discrimination lawsuit.
DOMA has been challenged many times. But Fonberg’s case was somewhat unusual. Instead of challenging DOMA directly, or concentrating on the plaintiff’s sexual orientation, the case hinged on her gender. If Fonberg were a man, her lawyer argued, she could legally marry Laura and therefore, her partner would be eligible for health benefits.
The judge ruled that it was illegal to deny the couple health benefits and Fonberg won her case. Does the ruling have broader implications? Have Fonberg and her attorney found a way around DOMA? Have you or your partner been denied benefits based on DOMA? Would this ruling have helped you?
- Gosia Fonberg: Clerk for the U.S. District of Oregon Court
- Pamela Jacklin: Retired partner at Stoel Rives
- Tara Borelli: Staff attorney for Lambda Legal
- Chris Tanner: Professor at OHSU’s Graduate Program in Nursing Education
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OPB | Feb. 22, 2017