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The State Department Implements Its Domestic Partner Benefits Changes

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Admittedly, State had a heads-up on other departments and agencies in equalizing benefits for the domestic partners of gay and lesbian employees and for the spouses of heterosexual workers, since Secretary Hillary Clinton ordered a review of department policies long before President Obama announced a government-wide review. But as of June 26, the changes to State's operating manuals governing those benefits were in effect. I'll be interested to see what role State's example plays in the agency-by-agency reviews, which I think were underlooked in the mainstream coverage of President Obama's benefits order. As Office of Personnel Management director John Berry proved as an assistant secretary at Interior, a deep review of a department's policies can turn up a whole mess of ways that a department treats gay workers different from straight ones. Policies get calcified, ignored, perhaps not even really enforced, but they're still there, and can still present a problem. If the reviews are substantive and thorough, agencies may end up changing a whole bunch of policies that disproportionately, or only, affect their gay employees. They still can't extend access to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program--Congress is going to have to do that. But agencies could end up taking on relocation benefits and other issues. The full impact of Obama's order remains to be seen.

 
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