Obama Directs Federal Agencies To Extend Benefits To Employees’ Same-Sex Partners

ObamaMemoLGBTIn June of 2009, President Obama asked federal agencies 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” within the scope of current law. Today, the administration released an additional memorandum directing agencies to “extend a host of benefits to their employees’ same-sex domestic partners as permitted by law.”

These benefits include:

credit union membership; access to fitness facilities; hardship transfers to maintain or improve the health of a domestic partner to the same extent provided to opposite-sex spouses; planning and counseling services (including briefings on employee pay and allowances, career counseling, retirement counseling, financial counseling, resource and referral services, planning sessions for permanent change of duty station, deployment support, parenting support groups, and elder care support groups); family assistance services (including adoption counseling, parenting counseling, childcare, elder care, financial planning, and home improvements); family and morale/wellness/recreation(MWR) events (including barbeques, golf outings, or awards ceremonies); access to medical treatment; access to lodging or allowances; joint consideration of transfers; and accidental death and dismemberment insurance.

Agencies that provide new benefits are also instructed to “provide them to the same-sex domestic partners of their employees and those same-sex domestic partners’ children” “to the extent permitted by law.” Agencies with greater flexibility over benefits must provide those extra benefits to their employees’ same-sex domestic partners and their children, in accordance with current law.

“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,” Obama writes in the memorandum. “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.”

To that end, Obama issued a separate statement renewing his call “for swift passage of an important piece of legislation pending in both Houses of Congress—the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act.” “This legislation, championed by Senators Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins and Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, would extend to the same-sex domestic partners of Federal employees the full range of benefits currently enjoyed by Federal employees’ opposite-sex spouses. I look forward to signing it into law,” Obama said. The bill has been reported out of committees in the House and Senate and “awaits consideration by the full body of both chambers.”