BERRY ON APPEALS COURT ORDER: “I Have A Partner Who Would Love To Have The Health Insurance Program Too.”

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(SAN FRANCISCO) As the keynote speaker at a luncheon during the 2009 International Gay and Lesbian Leadership Conference, Office of Personnel Management Head John Berry responded to an audience question about prickly issues raised by an order from Federal Appeals Judge Alex Kozinski.OPM Dir. John Berry

Judge Kozinski is the Chief of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.  He has written an order demanding the Obama Administration cease actions to block his instructions to grant full federal insurance benefits to the wife of Karen Golinski.

Golinski is an attorney and employee of the 9th Circuit.  She legally married her wife under California State law before Proposition 8.

“The lawyers are fighting out what I can do and they’re going to tell me what I can do.  If the Justice Department and everybody tells me I can pay it I’m happy to pay it, if I can’t I can’t,” John Berry told the audience of more than 100 openly gay local, state and federal elected and appointed officials at the conference in San Francisco.

Judge Kozinski’s order has put Berry in a tough position.  As the highest ranking, openly gay appointee to the Obama Administration, he is in the position of denying or granting benefits to another openly gay member of the federal government.

Berry expanded in his response by explaining the Judge’s order as very narrow.  He addressed Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D) Wisconsin who was in the audience at the conference, as well as Berry ’s chief legal Council Elaine Kaplan.

“I have a partner who would love to have the health insurance program, Tammy has a partner, Elaine has a partner and two kids.   The judge’s order wouldn’t affect any of the three of us.  So trust me, we have a personal interest in this,” Berry told the audience, “we want to see this legislation passed, it will benefit all Federal employees.”

Congresswoman Baldwin is a co-sponsor of the current version of the Employment Non Discrimination Act.   During the luncheon Rep Baldwin said she is confident the bill she introduced along with Rep. Barney Frank, will successfully pass in the House of Representatives by March of 2010.

If ENDA successfully makes it through both houses of Congress, Berry said President Barak Obama will sign it into law.  He pointed out it’s a guarantee that was not available during the Bush administration.

The current version of ENDA would include Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual and Transgendered people as a protected group against discrimination in the workplace.  Earlier versions of ENDA have concerns within the LGBT community because they did not include Trangendered people, or protections for Trangengered people were stripped from the bill in hopes of it’s passage.

There continues to be frustration within the LGBT community surrounding ENDA because of delays in the bill’s passage.

A coalition of more than 20 groups including the ACLU, GLAAD, Equality Federation, PFLAG, and others has issued a joint call for prompt passage of ENDA.

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