President Obama issued a directive in the form of a Presidential Memorandum late yesterday afternoon, instructing the Secretary of State and the Director of the Office of Personnel Management to “legally” extend employment benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of gay federal workers.
The president was expected to list the benefits to which the partners of gay federal workers would soon be entitled, according to the New York Times; but, that wasn’t the case.
Instead, the President pointed out that, unlike the laws that regulate private-sector employers, the laws that regulate his administration prohibit him from extending the full range of federal employment benefits to same-sex partners.
He also pointed out that his administration had consulted with the Secretary of State and the Director of the Office of Personnel Management to identify:
“areas in which statutory authority exists to achieve greater equality for the Federal workforce through extension to same-sex domestic partners of benefits currently available to married people of the opposite sex.”
The Secretary of State oversees Foreign Service employees, while the Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) oversees human resource management for civil service employees.
The president then instructed the Secretary of State and the OPM Director to consult with the Department of Justice about extending the benefits they’ve identified, while remaining within the confines of the law.
Benefits granted are not likely to include full health insurance coverage for same-sex domestic partners of federal workers, but will likely include family leave benefits, so that gay federal workers may legitimately take unpaid time off to care for their sick or injured same-sex partners.
In light of his new directive, the president also instructed the OPM to issue guidance to all executive departments and agencies regarding compliance with federal discrimination laws. The Federal Government has already defined sex discrimination in employment to include prohibiting prejudice on the basis of sexual preference (sexual orientation).
The president indicated that extending as many employment benefits as legally possible to same-sex partners of gay federal workers, will help the Federal Government compete with private-sector employers in recruiting and retaining “the best and brightest employees.”
However, critics say it’s because President Obama is under pressure from gay activists, to deliver on the promises that he made while running for office. Meanwhile, gay activists are hammering the president for failing to extend all federal benefits to same-sex domestic partners of federal workers, despite that the Defense of Marriage Act tied the president’s hands for now.
The Act defines marriage as only between a man and woman, and spouse as a wife or husband of the opposite sex. According to the New York Times, “Mr. Obama said he would indeed work to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, calling it ‘discriminatory.’ He also announced his support for legislation that would extend full health care benefits to federal workers…”
If you’d like to read it, the president’s memorandum is available for public viewing at the online White House Briefing Room.