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No Retroactive Benefits for Gay Worker’s Spouse

WASHINGTON (CN) - A former government employee cannot collect nearly a decade's worth of insurance that an agency refused to give his husband before a landmark Supreme Court decision, a federal judge ruled.

Edward Horvath married his longtime partner, Richard Neidich, on June 25, 2004, about a month after gay marriage became legal in Massachusetts, according to court records.

Within 60 days, Horvath, a full-time Government Accountability Office (GAO) worker, sought to add his husband to his Federal Employee Health Benefit policy, the ruling states.

But after Horvath asked why his online personnel data report and paystubs did not reflect "self and family" insurance coverage, the agency allegedly said that Neidich was ineligible, citing the Defense of Marriage Act's definition of a spouse as a person of the opposite sex.

Horvath says he asked the agency's chief administrative officer, Sallyanne Harper, to reconsider in November 2004, in an eight-page letter implying that the denial was discriminatory.

Harper refused to rethink the decision, court records show.

Horvath then filed a sex and age discrimination complaint, but the GAO's Office of Opportunity and Inclusiveness allegedly denied the complaint a year and a half later.

Though the agency's personnel appeals board investigated, the board claimed that it lacked the authority to address Horvath's constitutional issues, according to the federal ruling.

Seven years later, after the U.S. Supreme Court held the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional in United States v. Windsor on June 26, 2013, Horvath enrolled his husband in his health plan, with coverage beginning on June 30.

Horvath says he sought retroactive compensation from the GAO, filing a second discrimination complaint on Jan. 2, 2014 - the day before he retired from the agency.

However, the complaint was reportedly dismissed about a year later for failure to state a claim.

Horvath then sued former U.S. Office of Personnel Management Director Katherine Archuleta and Comptroller General Gene Dodaro in Federal Court in February of this year, seeking back pay and interest, damages for mental anguish, punitive damages and attorney's fees and costs.

Archuleta and Dodaro later moved to dismiss the amended complaint. U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly granted the motion Tuesday, finding that Horvath's claims are barred by the six-year statute of limitations.

"Although plaintiff filed this action within 90 days of the Nov. 12, 2014, denial of his second discrimination complaint, defendants argue that plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies because no discriminatory act occurred within 45 days of his 2013 contact with the GAO's Office of Opportunity and Inclusiveness-the contact that is the basis for the agency's denial of the relevant discrimination complaint," Kollar-Kotelly wrote in the Nov. 24 ruling. "The court agrees."

Horvath's complaint also fails under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, according to the ruling.

"While 'Self Only' coverage-with the corresponding deductions from his paycheck-was provided to plaintiff throughout the period after the denial of benefits until 2013, the only allegedly discriminatory act is the initial denial of benefits in 2004," Kollar-Kotelly wrote. (Emphasis in original.)

"Plaintiff never sought to add his husband to his health coverage after the initial denial until his 2013 request in the aftermath of United States v. Windsor, which was then granted. Because the coverage and the associated paycheck deductions subsequent to the denial of his 2004 request were the 'delayed, but inevitable, consequence[s]' of the initial denial, they do not constitute discriminatory actions that can serve as the basis for a Title VII claim," the D.C. District Court judge wrote.

Justice Department spokeswoman Nicole Navas and Jennifer Ashley, a spokeswoman for the GAO, each declined to comment on the ruling.

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