On June 2, President Barack Obama issued a memorandum compelling executive departments and agencies to take action immediately to extend a number of benefits to employees with same-sex partners. This memo expanded upon a similar one signed by the president last June that began the process of making available to LGBT federal employees and their families the same benefits offered to opposite-sex couples.
“NOW applauds the president’s efforts to ensure that LGBT employees in the federal government are treated fairly when it comes to family benefits,” said NOW President Terry O’Neill. “The list of rights and benefits denied to same-sex couples is a long one, and it exists because most same-sex couples cannot legally marry in the United States. The ultimate solution, obviously, is to change that. But this incremental step represents vital progress.”
Among those benefits extended both last year and this week are child-care subsidies and other family assistance services, long-term care insurance and expanded sick leave for civil service employees and medical care abroad, eligibility for employment at posts, cost-of-living adjustments abroad and medical evacuation for domestic partners of foreign service members, hardship transfers and relocation expenses. The president also instructed agencies that any new benefits must be extended to employees with opposite-sex spouses and those with same-sex partners on an equal basis.
President Obama made clear that under existing federal law his administration is limited in the scope of benefits it can provide to same-sex partners. To close the gap, NOW joins the president in his call for passage of the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, which is pending in the House and Senate. Sponsored by Senators Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins and Representative Tammy Baldwin, this legislation would extend the full range of benefits to federal employees with same-sex domestic partners.