Same-Sex Partners to Receive Federal Benefits, Sorta
By Samantha Abernethy in News on Jun 17, 2009 6:20PM
President Barack Obama will sign a presidential memorandum today to extend some benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees, but they may not include health or retirement benefits. Some gay rights activists expected Obama to make strides for gay rights this June in honor of Gay Pride Month, but they have been disappointed by the lack of movement.
The White House press office declined to detail which benefits would be included, but people familiar with the legal obstacles posed by the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, said health benefits are not likely to be a part of the package. The Lieberman-Baldwin Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, a bicameral bill that was introduced last month, will still need to be passed by Congress in order for full benefits to be extended to domestic partners of federal workers.
Gay rights leaders have been frustrated by the Obama administration's inaction on two key issues: the Defense of Marriage Act and the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Several gay leaders pulled out of a June 25 DNC event after the Department of Justice released a brief on June 12, defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. A New York Times editorial published yesterday titled "A Bad Call on Gay Rights," said the DOJ brief was disturbing and the administration needs a new direction on gay rights. A White House spokesman told the New York Times that it was standard practice for the administration to back laws that are challenged in court — even those it does not agree with. During the campaign, Obama said he wished to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.
The executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, a large state-based gay rights group, Alan Van Capelle, greeted today's announcement sarcastically.
"Welcome to 1999," he told POLITICO. "How revolutionary of the White House to give benefits to same-sex couples, when two-thirds of conservative Wall Street are already doing it. What an achievement."
Obama is expected to make the announcement today at 4:45 p.m. Chicago time.