Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Federal employee benefits: married people need not apply

Obama signed today a memorandum for partner benefits that federal employees already had. In his remarks, Obama says the right words:
I stand by my long-standing commitment to work with Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. It's discriminatory, it interferes with States' rights, and it's time we overturned it.

"I am also proud to announce my support for an important piece of legislation introduced in both Houses of Congress last month -- the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act of 2009. This legislation will extend to the same-sex partners of Federal employees the same benefits already enjoyed by the opposite-sex spouses of Federal employees. ....

"Extending equal benefits to the same-sex partners of Federal employees is the right thing to do. It is also sound economic policy. Many top employers in the private sector already offer benefits to the same-sex partners of their employees; those companies recognize that offering partner benefits helps them compete for and retain the brightest and most talented employees. The Federal Government is at a disadvantage on that score right now, and change is long overdue.

"As Americans, we are all affected when our promises of equality go unfulfilled. Through measures like the Presidential Memorandum I am issuing today and the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act of 2009, we will advance the principles upon which our Nation was founded and continue to perfect our Union."

Meanwhile, Aravosis counters that DOMA did NOT prevent actual benefits (you know, like health care?)
Here's why: DOMA prohibits granting benefits based on marriage, it does not prohibit granting benefits overall. Thus, you define a standard that isn't marriage, such as domestic partnerships as defined by, say, the amount of time spent dating, living together, comingling funds, etc. Had Obama simply said we will give health benefits to the domestic partners, straight and gay, of all federal employees, and given a definition of domestic partner that does not include marriage of civil unions, he could have done it.

Interesting theory. THere is some support to this because Federal judges have found (although not by court ruling) that two gay justice department employees are entitled to health benefits; the rulings implied that since the employees weren't married, they could be eligible. Even if it's not true that Obama could have done it NOW, under DOMA and the pending DP act, it sounds like gay couples who legally married in their home states are the only ones that will be ineligible for proper benefits. Inotherwords, marriage will DEPRIVE people of benefits.

I'm afraid at this point, though, talk is cheap. An executive memo (that will expire when he leaves office) that gives people sick leave and long term care insurance, doesn't really count as significant movement. I am expecting some fierce advocating, here, that will make ALL Americans full citizens.

Update: The NY Times has an editorial.


Erp said...

Actually I would phrase that as all US residents as full humans (marriage is a human right not a citizenship right).

Note that permanent residents of the US are entitled to marry members of the opposite sex and to receive some federal benefits. Also permanent residents can serve in the US military (like US citizens male permanent resident aliens of the right age must register for the draft). Admittedly very few other federal employees are likely to be non-US citizens (perhaps some locals employed by embassies overseas but they probably aren't entitled to benefits anyway).

IT said...

Murderers can marry, too. Criminals can get spousal benefits.

All we homos can do is vote. And we don't have enough votes to make a difference, apparently.

I'm finding this all very toxic. Fortunately I run this blog by "stacking up" a bunch of posts so i can take a break if I need to.

erp, I'm glad you keep coming by, otherwise I feel like I'm talking to myself, a sure sign of madness!

Erp said...

Hmm, I feared it was a sign of madness to be reading blogs.:-) I will note that the ratio of lurkers to commenters is probably quite high (can you tell how many have rss subscribed?).

Times are changing and I don't think I'm the only straight who feels upset by some of the recent administration's actions. Unfortunately as you know it is not just the US that needs to change. Same-sex sexual interactions are still criminal in many countries; in some it is a capital offense. Acceptance almost everywhere probably won't happen in our lifetimes (after all the anti-slavery movement has taken over 200 years; I suspect this will take a comparable amount of time).

IT said...

Sigh. I want to be a citizen, not an asterisk. It's WRONG in the 21st century to be treated this way.

Re. the blog: I don't know how to tell how many RSS or reader subscriptions there are. They don't show up on th e logs. Direct visits are maybe 20-25 a day (though we did hit 100 unique visitors on the Day of Decision).