ERISA and “spouse” definition

I bring to your attention Radtke v. Local 638 Health, Welfare, Eye & Dental Fund, 10-cv-4175 (MJD/JJG) (D. Minn. 4/2/2012).  In this case, the Fund terminated the enrollment of Plaintiff based on its interpretation of Minnesota law.  In summary, the Fund obtained information that Plaintiff was a transgendered individual and terminated her benefits.  The District Court disagreed with the Fund’s decision on the basis that the Fund had ignored all evidence of Minnesota’s view of Plaintiff’s sex and marital status.

When Plaintiff was born, Plaintiff’s gender was categorized as male.  Plaintiff was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, in which a patient’s psychological identification of her gender doe snot match the anatomical identification.  The Hennepin County Court granted the name change of Plaintiff to a female name.  Plaintiff also participated in a Transgender Program, and eventually underwent sex-reassignment surgery.  In 2005, Plaintiff filed a Petition for Modification of Birth Record and Issuance of Replacement Birth Certificate, whereby the birth record identified Plaintiff as female.  Later in 2005, Plaintiff married her spouse in Minnesota, and they were issued a marriage license by a Minnesota court.

The District Court determined that Plaintiff is the legal spouse of Mr. Radtke under Minnesota law and therefore an eligible dependent under the Plan.

The Plan was unambiguously written to allow all persons who are legal spouses under Minnesota law to be eligible family dependents.  The Fund’s role was to ascertain Minnesota law.  It was not the Fund’s role to impose its own definitions of gender and marriage upon its participants.  In this case, the Fund ignored all evidence of the State of Minnesota’s view of Plaintiff’s sex and marital status.  The Fund’s decision was not only wrong, under a de novo review, it was a flagrant violation of its duty under any standard of review. 

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1 Comment

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One response to “ERISA and “spouse” definition

  1. g-orbital

    Depressing. Perhaps you should send a link of your blog to the Fund? It sounds like they could use some better interpretations of law. Or they are just imbeciles…

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