Gay federal employees will be allowed to cover their same-sex partners’ children under the federal health insurance plan after a proposed regulation from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is enacted. According to the Washington Blade, “children will be eligible for coverage if a parent is in a domestic same-sex relationship with a federal employee who receives coverage through federal programs,” and the children could receive coverage even if they had not been legally adopted by the federal employee:
Right now, federal employees can obtain coverage for the children of their same-sex partners if he or she adopts their partner’s children. But adoption isn’t available to same-sex couples everywhere: only in 18 states and D.C. is second-parent adoption available statewide.
Brian Moulton, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, said the proposed rule change is important because of this limited availability of second-parent adoption.
“In the absence of fair adoption laws, thousands of same-sex parents across the country remain legal strangers to the children they have raised from birth,” Moulton said. “By issuing this proposed rule, OPM will ensure that fewer children of federal workers will be denied health care coverage simply because their parents are a same-sex couple.”
OPM offered recommendations about additional benefits that could be provided to partners of gay federal employees after President Obama extended limited benefits to same-sex partners. But since Obama’s June 2010 memo based on the recommendations, OPM determined that “stepchild” in the U.S. code related to federal employees could include a child of an employee’s same-sex partner. The proposed regulation expanding coverage is needed to implement Obama’s memo and “is consistent with OPM’s policy determination that extension of coverage is appropriate,” according to the rule.
The Senate has taken steps to pass the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligation Act, which would extend health insurance and other workplace benefits to federal employees and their same-sex partners. But while that legislation is stalled, this proposed regulation is a good step in the right direction.