Calpers Must Offer Same-Sex Couples Long-Term Care: Court

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the largest U.S. pension fund, must offer long-term care insurance to same-sex couples and domestic partners, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken in Oakland, California, ruling in a state workers’ lawsuit, said a federal statute outlawing gay marriage is unconstitutional to the extent that it bars same-sex spouses and domestic partners from enrolling in Calpers’s plan.

The legislative record of the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars federal benefits to same-sex couples, shows evidence of anti-gay bias, and the act violates gay and lesbian couples’ constitutional right to equal protection of the law, Wilken said yesterday in a ruling.

“We have been strongly advocating for the ability to administer our program for same-sex spouses and domestic partners, and we welcome the ability to extend important benefits to all our members and their families,” Anne Stausboll, chief executive officer of Calpers, said today in an e-mailed statement.

Federal judges in Boston and San Francisco have also struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. The rulings are being appealed. A Republican-led congressional group is defending the law after President Barack Obama’s administration said it wouldn’t defend the measure in court.

The act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996, defines marriage as being between one man and one woman, bars the U.S. government from recognizing same-sex marriages, and allows states to decline to do so as well.

Wilken said Calpers is permanently barred from denying long-term care benefits to same-sex partners and spouses. She said she will put her ruling on hold if Calpers appeals.

The case is Dragovich v. U.S. Treasury Department, 4:10-01564, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (Oakland).

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