Obama Orders Benefits Extended to Same-Gender Partners

June 4, 2010 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - 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.

The Federal Times reports that the 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.  

In addition, federal employees 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.  

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, according to the news report. Employees’ partners also now have access to agency-sponsored fitness facilities and planning and counseling services.  

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

Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry issued a memo to agencies on how to implement the order. 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.  

The order followed the June 1 publication of final regulations extending long-term care benefits to federal employees’ same-sex partners.  

The news report said Obama also released a statement this week 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, including health insurance and survivor annuities. A study from the Congressional Budget Office found the federal government would have to spend more than $300 million over 10 years to fund the granting of these benefits (see Federal Domestic Partner Benefits Could Cost $300M or More).