Obama Extends Benefits to Same-Sex Partners of Federal Employees
by Bruce-Michael Gelbert |
On June 2, President Barak Obama issued a memorandum to Federal Executive Department and Agency Heads extending benefits enjoyed by Federal heterosexual employees' spouses and families to domestic partners and children of LGBT families. The memorandum instructs the Director of the Office of Personnel Management and the Administrator of General Services to ensure that sex-sex domestic partners and their children qualify as immediate family members and dependents under the law, with regard to family and medical leave protections, child care services, and retiree pension annuities, for example, but stops short, according to Lambda Legal of guaranteeing family health insurance.
The President's memorandum begins, "For far too long, many of our Government's hard-working, dedicated LGBT employees have been denied equal access to the basic rights and benefits their colleagues enjoy. This kind of systemic inequality undermines the health, well-being, and security not just of our Federal work force, but also of their families and communities."
Terry O'Neill, President of the National Organization for Women, commented, "NOW applauds the president's efforts to ensure that LGBT employees in the federal government are treated fairly when it comes to family benefits. 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."
Lambda Legal Marriage Project Director Jennifer C. Pizer said, "With today's presidential memorandum, the Obama Administration is marking Gay Pride Month with a critical mind-shift from past practice - in which the federal government seemed to pretend its LGBT employees didn't have families - to a new era in which those families are acknowledged in a host of ways.
"Fair access to relocation support, Family and Medical Leave protections, child care services, retiree pension annuities and the range of other benefits offered (in certain circumstances) to federal employees will make an immense practical difference to the many thousands of LGBT workers who serve the American public. These benefits express basic respect for federal workers through greater recognition of their families by their employer - our government - which now comes much closer to honoring a core American value: equal pay for equal work.
"Today's great step forward notably did not include the biggest-ticket workplace benefit for many American employees - family health insurance. Whether that essential, still-missing piece is secured through Congressional action, federal court rulings or otherwise, it is needed urgently. We appreciate and echo President Obama's exhortation to Congress to act swiftly to pass the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, and also the Respect for Marriage Act (which will repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act). Equal access to family health insurance for all LGBT Americans is long overdue, and this harsh discrimination against hard-working public employees deserves an immediate remedy."
The full text of President Obama's memorandum follows:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release June 2, 2010
June 2, 2010
MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES
SUBJECT: Extension of Benefits to Same-Sex Domestic
Partners of Federal Employees
For far too long, many of our Government's hard-working,
dedicated LGBT employees have been denied equal access to the
basic rights and benefits their colleagues enjoy. This kind
of systemic inequality undermines the health, well-being, and
security not just of our Federal workforce, but also of their
families and communities. That is why, last June, I directed
the heads of executive departments and agencies (agencies), in
consultation with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), to
conduct a thorough review of the benefits they provide and to
identify any that could be extended to LGBT employees and their
partners and families. Although legislative action is necessary
to provide full equality to LGBT Federal employees, the agencies
have identified a number of benefits that can be extended under
existing law. OPM, in consultation with the Department of
Justice, has provided me with a report recommending that all
of the identified benefits be extended.
Accordingly, I hereby direct the following:
Section 1. Immediate Actions To Extend Benefits. Agencies
should immediately take the following actions, consistent with
existing law, in order to extend benefits to the same-sex
domestic partners of Federal employees, and, where applicable,
to the children of same-sex domestic partners of Federal
(a) The Director of OPM should take appropriate action to:
(i) clarify that the children of employees'
same-sex domestic partners fall within the definition
of "child" for purposes of Federal child-care
subsidies, and, where appropriate, for child-care
(ii) clarify that, for purposes of employee
assistance programs, same-sex domestic partners
and their children qualify as "family members";
(iii) issue a proposed rule that would clarify that
employees' same-sex domestic partners qualify as "family members" for purposes of noncompetitive
appointments made pursuant to Executive Order 12721
of July 30, 1990;
(iv) issue a proposed rule that would add a Federal
retiree's same-sex domestic partner to the list of
individuals presumed to have an insurable interest in
the employee pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 8339(k)(1), 8420;
(v) clarify that under appropriate circumstances,
employees' same-sex domestic partners and their
children qualify as dependents for purposes of
evacuation payments made under 5 U.S.C. 5522-5523;
(vi) amend its guidance on implementing President
Clinton's April 11, 1997, memorandum to heads of
executive departments and agencies on "Expanded
Family and Medical Leave Policies" to specify that
the 24 hours of unpaid leave made available to Federal
employees in connection with (i) school and early
childhood educational activities; (ii) routine family
medical purposes; and (iii) elderly relatives' health
or care needs, may be used to meet the needs of an
employee's same-sex domestic partner or the same-sex
domestic partner's children; and
(vii) clarify that employees' same-sex domestic
partners qualify as dependents for purposes of
calculating the extra allowance payable under
5 U.S.C. 5942a to assist employees stationed on
Johnston Island, subject to any limitations
applicable to spouses.
(b) The Administrator of General Services should take
appropriate action to amend the definitions of "immediate
family" and "dependent" appearing in the Federal Travel
Regulations, 41 C.F.R. Chs. 300-304, to include same-sex
domestic partners and their children, so that employees and
their domestic partners and children can obtain the full
benefits available under applicable law, including certain
travel, relocation, and subsistence payments.
(c) All agencies offering any of the benefits specified by
OPM in implementing guidance under section 3 of this memorandum,
including credit union membership, access to fitness facilities,
and access to planning and counseling services, should take all
appropriate action to provide the same level of benefits that is
provided to employees' spouses and their children to employees'
same-sex domestic partners and their children.
(d) All agencies with authority to provide benefits to
employees outside of the context of title 5, United States Code
should take all appropriate actions to ensure that the benefits
being provided to employees' spouses and their children are also
being provided, at an equivalent level wherever permitted by
law, to their employees' same-sex domestic partners and their
Sec. 2. Continuing Obligation To Provide New Benefits.
In the future, all agencies that provide new benefits to the
spouses of Federal employees and their children should, to the
extent permitted by law, also provide them to the same-sex
domestic partners of their employees and those same-sex domestic
partners' children. This section applies to appropriated and
nonappropriated fund instrumentalities of such agencies.
Sec. 3. Monitoring and Guidance. The Director of OPM
shall monitor compliance with this memorandum, and may instruct
agencies to provide the Director with reports on the status
of their compliance, and prescribe the form and manner of such
reports. The Director of OPM shall also issue guidance to
ensure consistent and appropriate implementation.
Sec. 4. Reporting. By April 1, 2011, and annually
thereafter, the Director of OPM shall provide the President with
a report on the progress of the agencies in implementing this
memorandum until such time as all recommendations have been
Sec. 5. General Provisions. (a) Except as expressly
stated herein, nothing in this memorandum shall be construed
to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) authority granted by law or Executive Order
to an agency, or the head thereof; or
(ii) functions of the Director of the Office
of Management and Budget relating to budgetary,
administrative, or legislative proposals.
(b) This memorandum shall be implemented consistent
with applicable law and subject to the availability of
(c) This memorandum is not intended to, and does not,
create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural,
enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the
United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its
officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
Sec. 6. Publication. The Director of OPM is hereby
authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the
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