President Obama signed a memorandum on Wednesday that extends limited benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees. Among those benefits is the right for a same-sex partner to use American medical facilities abroad as well as the right for a federal employee to take a leave of absence to nurse a sick partner or non-biological child to health. Healthcare and retirement benefits, however, are precluded from the President's package leaving some LGBT advocates dissatisfied with both yesterday's memorandum and the President's hesitance to fulfill his LGBT campaign promises. Rachel Maddow covered the breaking news on her MSNBC program this past Tuesday: editorial in The New York Times, published on Wednesday, candidly exposed the discrimination rooted in excluding same-sex partners from federal healthcare and retirement packages:
Since benefits are an important part of employment compensation, gay people are effectively being paid less than their heterosexual peers for doing the same work.The Times went on to clarify that while the new benefits are certainly a mark of progress, it is still "impossible to ignore how much of the glass is not full" and urged President Obama to fulfill his campaign pledges and "work to allow gay people to serve openly in the military and to persuade Congress to bar discrimination against gay people in employment." Similarly, in a June 18 article, "Gay Couples Express Hope over Benefits Extension," The Washington Post profiled three gay and lesbian federal employees, all of whom are hoping for further action on the parts of the President and U.S. congress: Jamie Price, a lawyer with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said she hopes Obama's action will "perhaps spur Congress" into approving the bipartisan legislation that would provide domestic partners of federal workers the same benefits as the spouses of federal employees. President Obama has expressed his full support for such legislation. Although the President did not directly address transgender people in his speech yesterday, the National Center for Transgender Equality reported on Wednesday that:
Officials [NCTE] spoke with today reconfirmed that the decision is firm that the new guidelines to agencies and departments will make clear that discrimination based on gender identity and expression is forbidden under civil service policies and that the policy will be enforced by this Administration.The Associated Press reported that John Berry, head of the Office of Personnel Management and the highest ranking gay person in the Obama administration declared yesterday's memorandum to be "a first step - not a final step" in President Obama's pursuit of LGBT equality. The blogosphere is also full of praise and criticism of President Obama's federal employee memorandum. Leonard Hirsch penned a thankful note to the Administration on Thursday via Bilerico.com:
Thank you, President Obama and your team (you know who you are). Thank you, Secretary Clinton and GLIFAA (Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies) for taking an important lead on these issues during this Administration.Though Hirsch goes on to say "We still have much to do for LGBT equality and to eliminate hate, discrimination and harassment in our society and our laws" - a point of clarification that Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, took up in her Huffington Post piece, "Our Moral Imperative." In the piece, Carey admonished last week's Department of Justice brief that defended the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) saying it was "not merely disappointing, it was a public abrogation of the promise of equality the president himself embraced as a candidate." She goes on to list dozens of policies on which the President can take immediate action in a move toward LGBT equality. Carey does give credit where it is due, echoing White House officials in calling the President's memorandum ‘a first step'. Bilerico.com went on to publish the transcripts of yesterday's White House press briefing with Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, during which Press Secretary Gibbs was pressed for answers on several LGBT issues. Among the most noteworthy of responses was one in which a timeline for the repeal of ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell' was disclosed:
Q: Okay. And on-just one more time on DOMA, "don't ask, don't tell" timeline, does the President want to see that overturned in this Congress? I mean, is there a plan to do that in this Congress? MR. GIBBS: I think, as Senator Reid said, it's something we can do in this Congress and it's something that the President is working with members of Congress, working with-on "don't ask, don't tell," working with the Pentagon to ensure that that happens. Yes, ma'am.GLAAD will continue to monitor media reports of the Obama Administration's stance and actions on LGBT issues. If you're not already, follow us on Twitter!