Dragovich v. CalPERS

A Class Action Challenging the Defense of Marriage Act and Unequal Access to CalPERS Benefits for State WorkersOn May 24, 2012, a federal judge ruled in favor of a certified class of state workers and their spouses and registered domestic partners exclude

On May 24, 2012, a federal judge ruled in favor of a certified class of state workers and their spouses and registered domestic partners excluded from CalPERS-sponsored long-term care insurance, finding that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violates the equal protection guarantees of the U.S. Constitution. Read the court’s ruling

In its order, the Court “permanently enjoined” CalPERS from excluding gay and lesbian spouses and partners from enrollment in the Long-Term Care Program, and further barred the federal IRS from penalizing CalPERS as a result.

But the case has been “stayed,” or put on hold until August 1, 2013. Why? For two reasons. First, the federal government and Congressional Republicans have been seeking review in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. (The Republicans, appearing by way of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, were seeking to uphold the constitutionality of the DOMA. The United States was defending the tax code’s exclusion of registered domestic partners—even though gay and lesbian couples could not get married in California post-Proposition 8, and the status of registered domestic partnership is supposed to be otherwise equal.) Because these defendants filed appeals, the federal court’s injunction was stayed.

Second, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals added its own stay waiting to see what the U.S. Supreme Court would decide in United States v. Windsor.

On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court declared DOMA unconstitutional in the Windsor case. The Court also cleared the way for same-sex marriages to begin again in California. Same-sex couples began marrying in San Francisco on June 28, 2013.

Along with Claudia Center, Elizabeth Kristen and William C. McNeill, III, from Legal Aid Society–Employment Law Center, counsel for the plaintiff class in Dragovich include Dan Mason and Patrick Clayton of Zelle Hofmann Voelbel & Mason LLP.