This just in from the AP, surely driven by the DOJ-DOMA debacle.
President Barack Obama plans to extend health care and other benefits to the gay and lesbian partners of federal employees. White House officials say Obama plans to announce the decision Wednesday in the Oval Office. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the president had not yet made the announcement. The move would give partners of federal employees access to health care and financial benefits such as relocation fees for moves. Officials say Obama would detail more details of the decision on Wednesday.
Does everybody feel better that we’re getting something not anywhere near the top of our list? On the other hand, this is major for federal employees, even if it’s only an expansion of what was granted two weeks ago to State Department employees. It could also arguably open the door on DOMA.
This news, coupled with tomorrow’s expected Senate vote on the hate crimes act, could go a long way towards silencing some of Obama’s critics. We shall see.
UPDATE: Contrary to the AP report, it looks like what Obama will offer federal employees will only include relocation costs for partners and NOT health and retirement benefits. It was also be implemented via memorandum, not by executive order, and will therefore expire when Obama leaves office.
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 bi-cameral 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.
“Our analysis has been that it will take an act of Congress for the full suite of benefits such as health benefits and retirement benefits to be provided for same-sex couples and families,” said Leonard Hirsch, president of Federal Globe: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Employees of the Federal Government. Hirsch said the executive branch has the authority to extend certain other benefits through departments and agencies, such as providing relocation costs for partners of federal employees.
UPDATE II: Rachel Maddow covers the story.