HR Management & Compliance

Obama Extends Benefits to Same-Sex Partners of Federal Employees

President Barack Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum on Federal Benefits and Non-Discrimination June 17 at an Oval Office event. The memorandum addresses the benefits to which same-sex partners of federal employees may be entitled and is a result of internal reviews conducted by the director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the secretary of state over the past several months. The reviews were performed to determine which benefits could be extended to same-sex partners of federal employees in the civil and foreign services under existing federal laws and statutes.

According to a fact sheet on the memorandum released by the White House, the reviews identified several benefits that could be extended to federal employees’ domestic partners. Same-sex partners of civil service employees can be added to the long-term care insurance program. Further, supervisors can be required to allow civil service employees to use their sick leave to take care of their same-sex partners and non-biological, non-adopted children.

The fact sheet also identifies several benefits that can be extended to the domestic partners of foreign service employees. Such benefits include the use of medical facilities at posts abroad, medical evacuation from posts abroad, and inclusion in family size for housing allocations.

The presidential memorandum asks the director of the OPM and the secretary of state to extend the benefits identified by the reviews to the same-sex partners of federal employees. It also asks the heads of all other federal agencies and executive-branch departments to conduct their own internal reviews to determine whether other benefits could also be extended to their employees’ domestic partners. The heads of these agencies and departments will need to report the results of their own reviews to the director of the OPM.

Finally, the memorandum instructs the OPM to issue guidance within 90 days to all executive departments and agencies addressing compliance with and implementation of the civil service laws. These laws make it illegal to discriminate against federal employees or applicants on the basis of factors not related to job performance.

In President Obama’s official statement, he says that the memorandum is just the beginning and that he is committed to working with Congress to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, a law that forbids federal recognition of gay marriage. President Obama also mentions the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligation Act of 2009, which is legislation that has been introduced in both houses of Congress and would extend the same benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees that opposite-sex spouses of federal employees already receive.

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To learn more about changes in employment law in 2009 and what’s on the horizon in employment law for 2010, check out the Advanced Employment Issues Symposium being held in Nashville Sept. 17-18, 2009, and in Las Vegas on Oct. 29-30, 2009.