It would take new legislation to extend full health coverage to the same-sex partners of federal employees, but President Obama, via presidential memorandum, will grant some benefits to them.
The administration is already on thin ice with gay activists, some of whom are angry about a Justice Department brief defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, the very law that prevents the government from recognizing the rights of gay couples.
Update from the AP: “‘We all have to acknowledge this is only one step,’ Obama said in the Oval Office, where he signed a memorandum extending some benefits, such as visitation or dependent-care rights, to the same-sex partners of gay federal employees.
But the president’s critics — and there were many — saw the incremental move to expand gay rights as little more than pandering to a reliably Democratic voting bloc, with the primary aim not of making policy more fair but of cutting short a fundraising boycott.”
As a presidential candidate, Mr. Obama vowed to “fight hard” for the rights of gay couples. As a senator, he sponsored legislation that would have provided health benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees. But since becoming president five months ago, Mr. Obama has not addressed the issue or whether gays can serve openly in the military, a point of contention for gay-rights groups.
Joe Solmonese, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, wrote an angry letterto the White House on Monday about the administration’s move to file a legal brief supporting the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act.
“As an American, a civil rights advocate, and a human being, I hold this administration to a higher standard than this brief,” Mr. Solmonese wrote. “In the course of your campaign, I became convinced — and I still want to believe — that you do, too.”