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Federal benefits extended to same-sex partners

Jun. 3, 2010 - 06:00AM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments
"This is another major step forward for gay and lesbian federal employees," Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry said.
"This is another major step forward for gay and lesbian federal employees," Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry said. (ROB CURTIS / STAFF)

President Obama signed a memo June 2 extending child care, employee assistance, credit union membership and other benefits to gay and lesbian federal employees' same-sex domestic partners and their children.

"This is another major step forward for gay and lesbian federal employees," Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry said yesterday as he issued a memo to agencies on how to implement the order. "But it's also a good business practice. This will help us retain valuable employees and better compete with other employers for top talent. Youth today, LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] or not, see these benefits as a litmus test for determining high-quality employers."

Obama's memo clarifies that the children of employees' same-sex partners are also considered the employees' children and dependents, and said those employees are now eligible to receive child care subsidies and services offered by an agency. Same-sex partners and their children also count as family members for other employee assistance programs.

The memo also makes same-sex partners of State Department employees deployed abroad eligible for noncompetitive appointments to federal jobs when they return to the United States, as heterosexual spouses are now.

And gay and lesbian feds can now use family and medical leave to make school arrangements for their partners' children, or for medical care for their partners, as well as their partners' children and elderly relatives.

Employees' partners also now have access to agency-sponsored fitness facilities and planning and counseling services.

Obama also ordered agencies to make sure all benefits created in the future are extended to gay and lesbian employees' partners, if allowed by law.

In his guidance, Berry said agencies may choose to secure documentation from gay and lesbian employees, such as a sworn affidavit, to establish the existence of a domestic partnership, but they are not required to do so.

Obama's memo followed the June 1 publication of final regulations extending long-term care benefits to feds' same-sex partners.

But Obama is still prevented by law from extending health insurance, survivor annuities and other benefits to employees' same-sex partners. He released a statement last night renewing his call for Congress to pass HR 2517 and S 1102, the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, which would make same-sex domestic partners eligible for the same benefits as married heterosexual spouses of federal employees.

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