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Obama extends more benefits to gay federal workers

By Ed O'Keefe

President Obama extended on Wednesday a wider range of benefits to the same-sex partners of eligible federal workers, including access to medical treatment, relocation assistance, credit unions and fitness centers.

The move goes beyond a memo Obama signed last June, which permitted same-sex partners to use the government's long-term-care insurance and other fringe benefits. It amounts to another victory for gay-rights advocates who have pressured the White House to extend greater rights to lesbian and gay Americans.

(The Office of Personnel Management said Tuesday that same-sex partners will become eligible for long-term-care insurance next month.)

Obama also ordered federal agencies last year to identify other benefits they could offer to same-sex partners. A review by the Office of Personnel Management and Justice Department determined that at least some agencies could also permit credit union and gym memberships and access to counseling services, adoption counseling, and agency events or outings.

A limited number of intelligence and financial regulatory agencies, Obama's memo said, will be able to provide reimbursements for health-insurance premiums, dental and vision insurance, business travel accident insurance and tax reimbursements for gym memberships, physical exams and homeowners' insurance.

These benefits do not cover uniformed members of the military. Last week, the House voted to repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which bans gays and lesbians from openly serving in uniform, and the Senate is scheduled to vote on repeal in the coming weeks. If a repeal is included in the final version of the annual defense spending bill, the Pentagon would take steps next year to address the treatment of gay and lesbian service members.

Though Obama has extended a greater number of benefits to gay federal workers than any of his predecessors, he is prevented by federal law from providing full benefits to same-sex partners. To that end, he reiterated support for House and Senate legislation that would grant all federal benefits to same-sex partners.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | June 2, 2010; 8:00 PM ET
Categories:  Administration, Workplace Issues  
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Comments

Thanks Barry.

Posted by: CarolGBOS | June 2, 2010 8:51 PM | Report abuse

Odd...straight people, that is a man and a woman, have to be proven married to gain benefits from each other.
But of course if that were a choice of voters, no doubt the majority of the US would vote against same sex marriage, making it legally clear that they could never be entitled to spousal benefits.
So what does the Obama administration do, deny due process and justice.

Posted by: freeparking | June 2, 2010 9:19 PM | Report abuse

Good move, Obama, grab those exiting votes while you can...

Posted by: prossers7 | June 2, 2010 9:25 PM | Report abuse

If it upsets the religious nutcases, then go for it!

Posted by: Garak | June 2, 2010 9:46 PM | Report abuse

Homophobia is intolerance which brings no benefit. President Obama has done a good thing by increasing the benefits for same-sex couples who work for the federal government, especially regarding medical treatment.

Posted by: LibertyForAll | June 2, 2010 11:28 PM | Report abuse

If you are going to provide this benefit to gay couples in a long-term, commmitted relationship who do not have to provide any documentation or evidence to gain this benefit, then the same should be done for straight couples who are not married.

Posted by: cafm70 | June 3, 2010 7:42 AM | Report abuse

@cafm70: the difference is that straight couples have the choice to get married. This new benefit for gay couples who do not have that choice is a stepping stone of sorts. Now, using your argument structure, if straight couples are allowed to get married, then the same should be allowed for gay couples. I agree with you there.

Posted by: Sunshine36 | June 3, 2010 9:00 AM | Report abuse

@cafm70, in most cases, same-sex couples do not have the option of getting married where they live. If same-sex couples live in a state that allows same-sex marriage then, yes, by all means they should be married before accessing benefits. However, if they are not in such a state, there are other proxies that can be equally good substitutes for proving commitment, including medical directives, joint accounts, and other things that most committed same-sex couples have with one another.

As a federal worker, it is grossly unfair to not provide equal benefits in this area. If my partner loses her health insurance, I am unable to put her on my Federal plan, as any married couple can easily do. This is discrimination, as I am doing the same work as my colleagues who are in opposite-sex marriages, yet getting fewer benefits.

Posted by: Stats | June 3, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Good move Obama(finally)!!

Posted by: lsf07 | June 3, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

This is one step closer to full equality. It's a long march but the day will come.

Posted by: flong3 | June 3, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

I am also a federal employee and veteran. I applaud the new benefits, but I believe that a registered of legal document showing a committed relationship should be required, so this is not abused.

I have worked a lot of years to hopefully get to this day. I would hate for some bad people to get it repealed due to abuse.

Posted by: Shelala | June 3, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: cafm70 "If you are going to provide this benefit to gay couples in a long-term, commmitted relationship who do not have to provide any documentation or evidence to gain this benefit, then the same should be done for straight couples who are not married."

I agree that they should also include domestic partnerships for hetero couples, but they do have the option to get married and its not like "marriage of convenience" doesn't happen anymore.

However as to you statement about not having to prove anything, both people must have the same legal residence and show joint property like a mortgage or bank accounts to qualify. And if they are paterning this off many of the private sector rules for the same thing they may have a minimum cohabitation requirement, like 2 years or something before being eligable for benefits.

Posted by: schnauzer2 | June 3, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

god there will be so much abuse..... tax payers to the rescue!

Posted by: FiatBooks | June 3, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Interesting, schnauzer, that two years cohab might be required for a gay couple, when a lot of straight marriages don't even LAST two years, yet the benefit access is immediate. Exactly what part of equal treatment and equal benefits for equal work do a lot of people just not seem to understand here? And the final screw job on many benefits is that they are then taxable to non-married couples as additional income.

Posted by: AtlantaJoe | June 3, 2010 5:23 PM | Report abuse

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