Thursday, December 03, 2009

Interview: The Attorney in That "Bombshell" Case

It appears that John Berry, the highest ranking openly gay person in the Obama administration, head of the Office of Personnel Management, was not yet in his post when the OPM defied a court order and directed the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to deny a California lesbian federal appeals court employee of federal marriage benefits, including health insurance for her wife. But John Berry most certainly is there now. And the OPM now has been given 30 days by the chief judge of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (the deadline is December 21, so now it is actually less than 20 days) to follow his earlier order which the White House, through OPM, defied.

Yesterday the lead attorney in the case that came to light in TIME last week came on my radio program. James McQuire, a partner at the law firm Morrison & Foerster, along with Lambda Legal, is representing Karen Golinksi in a case that I wrote about over the holiday weekend, described as a "bombshell" by one legal expert, in which Judge Kozinski wrote a stern decree demanding the White House and OPM follow his order.

The audio of the full interview is below, in which McQuire outlines the case, explains why the judge has the power to issue such an order and discusses with me possible reasons why the Obama administration defied the order, from worries about how this might affect DOMA to concerns about separation of powers.

Just a few things I want to point out: McGuire said that when the administration defied the order, it was about six weeks prior to when openly gay John Berry took the OPM post. Now, however, Judge Kozonski's decree from the week before last for the OPM to stop interfering is in Berry's lap. McGuire said the White House has three options: It could give Karen Golinski her rights and let this be; it could choose to appeal to a panel of the court; or it could do nothing, keep defying the order, and Karen Golinski would appeal to the same panel. Obviously two of those options will further inflame tensions with the LGBT community.