Obama to Extend Benefits to Gay Partners of Federal Employees

Posted June 16, 2009 at 9:26pm

President Barack Obama on Wednesday will sign a presidential memorandum extending benefits to gay and lesbian partners of federal employees, a White House spokesman has confirmed.Obama will sign the memorandum in the Oval Office around 5:45 p.m. and hold a press event, the spokesman said. He declined to elaborate on what benefits were being extended.Obama faces statutory obstacles in seeking to extend health benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees. Federal law states that health insurance can only be extended to “a spouse,— which is defined by the Defense of Marriage Act as being a partner of the opposite sex. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) have filed legislation to get around those legal provisions. Under their bill, which has 76 House co-sponsors and 23 Senate co-sponsors, domestic partners would be entitled to benefits available to married federal employees and their spouses. Obama’s move is sure to delight the gay community, which had begun voicing frustrations with his inaction on their key issues. Namely, Obama has taken heat for not moving to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and for not ending the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell— policy banning gays from openly serving in the military.