Obama extends benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees

President Obama on Wednesday ordered federal agencies to extend a range of benefits to same-sex domestic partners of their employees.

"For far too long, many of our government's hard-working, dedicated [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] employees have been denied equal access to the basic rights and benefits their colleagues enjoy," Obama wrote in a memo to the heads of federal departments and agencies. "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 said while Congress would have to act to extend a full range of benefits to same-sex partners of employees, agencies had identified some that could be provided under existing law. Many of them are administered under regulations issued by the Office of Personnel Management. Obama ordered OPM to:

  • Clarify that the children of employees' same-sex partners fall within the definition of "child" for purposes of child-care subsidies and child-care services.
  • Make it clear that same-sex domestic partners and their children qualify as family members for purposes of providing employee assistance programs.
  • Issue a rule indicating that same-sex partners also qualify as family members under Executive Order 12721, which allows noncompetitive job appointments of certain family members who accompany their spouses on overseas assignments.
  • Issue a rule adding federal retirees' same-sex partners to the list of people presumed to have an "insurable interest" in the retiree under federal regulations.
  • Clarify that same-sex partners and their children can qualify as dependents for purposes of evacuation payments under federal law.
  • Amend guidance on a memo issued by President Clinton granting 24 hours of unpaid leave to employees to cover school activities, routine family medical visits and elderly relatives' health needs to state such leave can be applied to the needs of same-sex partners and their children.
  • Clarify that same-sex partners qualify as dependents for purposes of calculating an extra pay allowance for employees stationed on Johnston Island in the Pacific.

On Wendesday, OPM Director John Berry issued guidance of his own on implementing the provisions of Obama's memo. Among other items, it clarifies the definition of "domestic partner."

Obama's memo "is another major step forward for gay and lesbian federal employees," Berry said. "But it's also a good business practice. This will help us retain valuable employees and better compete with other employers for top talent."

In the memo, Obama also ordered the General Services Administration to change the definitions of the terms "immediate family" and "dependent" in federal travel regulations to include same-sex partners and children to make sure they're eligible for certain travel and relocation payments.

The memo also said agencies should "take all appropriate action" to ensure that other benefits, such as credit union membership and access to fitness facilities, are provided to employees' same-sex-partners at the same level they are to spouses.

Earlier this week, OPM finalized a regulation making federal long-term care insurance benefits available to same-sex domestic partners of employees.

That action, and Wednesday's memo, came as a result of a review Obama ordered last year of how federal benefits could be extended to the partners of gay and lesbian employees.

On Wednesday, Obama also renewed his call for passage of the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act (H.R. 2517), which would grant domestic partners access to federal employee health care benefits.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.