Obama To Extend Minimal “Partner Benefits” To Federal Employees

Jim Burroway

June 16th, 2009

The Advocate has a very brief mention that President Barack Obama will sign a presidential memorandum tomorrow at 5:45 pm EDT to provide benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees. He is scheduled to make a few brief remarks following the signing.

Update: When I first posted this, the Advocate story only had two paragraphs, the first and the last one.  This part wasn’t part of the article yet:

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.

Really? Relocation expenses? You’ve got to be kidding me. Health and retirement benefits are the most important part of any benefits plan. This one is practically useless — and a cruel joke at that, given the events of the past few days. If this is supposed to be a sop that the Obama administration is throwing to LGBT employees, it’s a pretty limp one.

I’ve now updated the title of this post to put “Partner Benefits” in scare quotes where they belong.

Update: There’s more. President Obama will be signing a memorandum, not an executive order. Which means that it will only be in effect while Obama is in office. LGBT advocates are, shall we say, underwhelmed:

The executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, a large state-based gay rights group, Alan Van Capelle, greeted today’s announcement sarcastically.

“Welcome to 1999,” he told POLITICO. “How revolutionary of the White House to give benefits to same-sex couples, when two-thirds of conservative Wall Street are already doing it. What an achievement.”

“It’s just one of the things that should have been done in January,” Van Capelle, who was among those taking his name off the Biden event, said, calling for a “comprehensive strategy.” “If the President makes the announcement tomorrow, it will still fall short of what LGBT people are expecting from this administration.”

Bruce Garrett

June 16th, 2009

How…fierce.

lurker

June 16th, 2009

I’m a federal employee, and am pretty darn happy about this personnaly . . . especially for friends of mine with partners who need health benefits.

Politically it’s kind of disappointing though. Why didn’t he take on DADT first, which has such political support and which he promised during the campaign?

lurker

June 16th, 2009

oh. whoops. looks like NO health benes. well, that was short-lived happiness.

Timothy Kincaid

June 16th, 2009

American voters, if you put your confidence in me, if you elect me as your president, I promise you that I will provide relocation costs for partners of federal employees.

Ummm…. yeah, that wouldn’t be a very compelling campaign. Not that I’m not grateful, I am, but well… let’s just say I’m not dancing around my table.

I find it interesting that there wasn’t a single positive comment on the Advocate’s site.

Jim Burroway

June 16th, 2009

When I first posted this, the Advocate story only had two paragraphs, the first and the last one. This part wasn’t part of the article yet:

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.

Really? Relocation expenses? You’ve got to be kidding me. Health and retirement benefits are the most important part of any benefits plan. This one is practically useless — and a cruel joke at that, given the events of the past few days. If this is supposed to be a sop that the Obama administration is throwing to LGBT employees, it’s a pretty limp one.

I’ve now updated the title of this post to put “Domestic Partner Benefits” in scare quotes where they belong.

Patrick

June 16th, 2009

Smells to me like a bone to keep us at bay.

lurker

June 16th, 2009

Now that I think about it . . . some friends of mine (CA married lesbians) relocated to AZ last year and got our agency to provide moving expenses for the both of them (really it was only a few hundred bucks of difference, but I think they were pleased to be “included”). Maybe it’s an agency-by-agency call, but it seems that O is going to make a big deal about this, when really it is next to nothing.

hmgph. wish I had kept that campaign donation and taken my sweetie out to a nice dinner instead. I wouldn’t feel like suuuuuch a sucker.

steve

June 16th, 2009

WTF…..this is so so very small….crumbs….

Bruno

June 17th, 2009

I think this move is a response to 2 coinciding events: the furor over the DOJ briefing that has the fundraiser on the verge of cancellation, coupled with the tabling of the vote on the hate crimes bill to August. The latter is very important, because it would have served as a minor distraction from the DOJ-DOMA mess. Now, Obama had to fall back on this to cover up BOTH the briefing fiasco and the hate crimes vote delay. And it won’t work. Not a bit.

Alan

June 17th, 2009

I wonder…why?

Obama’s doing healthcare reform and other big, complicated tasks. Why can’t he manage something relatively simple and less controversial like DADT?

Are they really afraid that it will provoke controversy that will distract from the other tasks?

Are they more interested in support from across the aisle than support from traditionally Dem groups like gays?

Or does Obama have some personal objections to gays? African Americans tend to be less approving than Americans in general.

I don’t know.

Johnson

June 17th, 2009

Did any of you notice these “benefits” expire at the end of BO’s term as President? Wake up people, we have been taken for granted and lied to!

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