By Kathleen Gilbert

SACRAMENTO, California, February 10, 2009 ( – Two judges in California’s 9th Circuit Court have ruled in two separate cases that the same-sex “spouse” of federal employees must be granted the same health benefits as a heterosexual spouse, in spite of federal law to the contrary. One judge declared the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional.

Judge Stephen Reinhardt ruled last week that Tony Sears, who “married” deputy federal public defender Brad Levenson in July, was being unfairly and unconstitutionally discriminated against by current federal law, which does not recognize a homosexual partner as a claimant to spousal benefits.

The denial of such benefits “cannot be justified simply by a distaste for or disapproval of same-sex marriage or âEUR¦ to discourage exercising a legal right afforded them by the state,” wrote Reinhardt, who ordered Sears to be enrolled in the federal spousal insurance program.

In another 9th Circuit decision last month, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski granted benefits to the same-sex “spouse” of a staff attorney for the court, but did not invoke the constitution.

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which was passed in 1996, states that marriage is recognized as only the union of one man and one woman for federal law purposes. It also says that states cannot be forced to recognize an out-of-state same-sex union. Reinhardt is the first U.S. judge to openly state that DOMA is unconstitutional.

Judge Reinhardt, whom the Liberty Counsel identified as “the most reversed judge on the most reversed federal court of appeals,” has earned a reputation as one of the most left-winged activist judges in the U.S. Reinhardt is the same judge who in 2005 ruled that the Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional because it contained the phrase “one nation, under God.”

“The American people have had their fill of activist judges. Activist judges make a mockery of the law and bring disrespect to the judicial process,” said Mathew D. Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, last Friday.

“An opinion of an activist judge based on nothing else than his personal bias is no law at all and commands no respect. As the Founding Fathers would say, such a ruling is no law at all, and is as if it had never happened.”

Erik Zimmerman, staff counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, told the Christian Broadcasting Network that he doubted Reinhardt’s case would go far in the courts, but was “more of a preview of what could come.”

“This particular opinion should not have much wide-ranging impact across the country – it certainly signals that there could be a trend in the future of judges following this judge’s lead and striking down the Defense of Marriage Act,” he said.

The two rulings, however, are reportedly not considered as precedent for future California court decisions as they involved internal disputes within the federal judiciary, rather than actual lawsuits.

See related article:

Obama Is For ‘Gay Marriage’ even as He’s Against It