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Federal Employees News Digest : July 8, 2013
Phil Piemonte, Managing Editor E-mail: email@example.com What's Inside44 JULY 8, 2013 • VOL. 62, NO. 49 Supreme Court voids DOMA restrictions, frees up same-sex benefits The U.S. Supreme Court acted last month to invalidate a major piece of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law that denies employee benefits to same- sex spouses of feds---and federal unions and experts are variously celebrating and analyzing the implications of the decision. With the legal language against gay spousal benefits gone, those who are legal- ly married to feds in states recognizing gay marriage are now eligible for a wide range of new benefits. The court handed down its ruling on July 26, in Windsor v. United States, in favor of New York resident Edie Windsor, who sued the federal government after the law resulted in her unequal tax treatment because of her same-sex marriage. The case was decided in a 5-4 split opinion, with the relevant Section 3 of DOMA struck down, and other portions remain- ing in effect. Employee unions laud decision "As the Supreme Court has clearly decided, DOMA was an unconstitutional law that discriminated against a group of Americans for no other reason than their sexual orientation, denying them basic rights and protections that so many of us take for granted," American Federation of Government Employees General Counsel David Borer said in a statement. AFGE, along with the AFL-CIO and other labor groups, had filed a friend of the court brief with the Supreme Court urging the justices to declare DOMA unconstitutional. "This important decision will extend to federal workers benefits that have become commonplace in the private sector and for other public employees," Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said in a statement. "We are thrilled at the decision to strike down the harmful Defense of Marriage Act," William R. Dougan, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, said in statement. "There is no longer any reason to exclude federal workers and their loved ones from receiving equal ben- efits for equal work." Equal access to benefits "In a nutshell, the court held that, in a state where 'marriage' lawfully includes gay marriage ... DOMA served to outlaw that which the state sovereign has deemed lawful," attorney John P. Mahoney, a part- ner in the law firm Tully Rinckey PLLC, told FEND in an email shortly after the decision was handed down. "Therefore, DOMA is unconstitutional in that it vio- lates the equal protection of the laws clause under the Constitution's Fifth Amendment." "Specifically---because the Obama administration has already long since encouraged agencies to extend benefits to the fullest extent possible---once the Winds or decision is fully digested by the Justice Department and OPM, it will result in full equalization of benefits to same-sex spouses," Mahoney told FEND later. "These benefits will include every- Not your grandpa's civil service Covering the civil service beat is rewarding in that more often than not--- at least in the past--- you were constantly passing on warnings (sometimes valid, often not) and information that helped people. When I first started on this job, mostly it was good news. Congress was struc- tured so that there were two commit- tees---the Senate Post Office-Civil Service Committee and the House Post Office- Civil Service Committee---that were in the care and feeding business. Federal and postal (especially postal) unions had lots of clout on Capitol Hill. The chief lobbyist of one major postal union was also the treasurer of the Democratic Club, made up of Democratic senators, representatives and staffers who met to eat, drink and be merry. And be lobbied. The Democrats had controlled Congress for so long---with a couple of rare breaks--- that it seemed natural. There was also a Republican Club on Capitol Hill. The unions, wisely, had national officers that belonged to them. In other words, they also had a line into the minority, in case it ever because the majority party. One union wisely hired a retired (or defeated, I forget which) Republican senator from Kansas to be one of its lobbyists. Bottom line was that they had links to the Democrats who ran things and the Republicans who, at least on the committees, were pro-fed. And definitely pro-postal worker. Back in those days, most of the news INSIGHT BY MIKE CAUSEY continued on page 2 For more news...see Federal Daily at www.FederalDaily.com • Union, USPS settle OSHA case 4 • NASA wants moratorium extension 5 • In Brief 5 • Informed Investor 7 • Federal Benefits Q&A 8 continued on page 3
July 1, 2013
July 15, 2013