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Obama extends benefits of gay federal workers

By Ed O'Keefe
Thursday, June 3, 2010

President Obama extended Wednesday a wider range of benefits to the same-sex partners of eligible federal workers, including access to medical treatment, relocation assistance, credit unions and fitness centers.

The move goes beyond a memo Obama signed last June, which permitted same-sex partners to use the government's long-term-care insurance and other fringe benefits. The Office of Personnel Management said Tuesday that same-sex partners will become eligible for such insurance next month.

Obama also ordered federal agencies last year to identify other benefits that could be offered to same-sex partners. A review by the Office of Personnel Management and Justice Department determined that at least some agencies could also permit credit union and gym memberships and access to counseling services, adoption counseling, and agency events or outings.

A limited number of intelligence and financial regulatory agencies, Obama's memo said, will be able to provide reimbursements for health-insurance premiums, dental and vision insurance, business travel accident insurance and tax reimbursements for gym memberships, physical exams and homeowners' insurance.

These benefits do not cover uniformed members of the military. Last week, the House voted to repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which bans gays and lesbians from openly serving in uniform, and the Senate is scheduled to vote on a repeal in the coming weeks. If a repeal is included in the final version of the annual defense spending bill, the Pentagon would take steps next year to address the treatment of gay and lesbian service members.

Though Obama has extended a greater number of benefits to gay federal workers than any of his predecessors, he is prevented by federal law from providing full benefits to same-sex partners. To that end, he reiterated support for House and Senate legislation that would grant all federal benefits to same-sex partners.

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