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Federal family leave without pay policy extends to same-sex partners

By Ed O'Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 15, 2010; B03

Federal workers who have a same-sex domestic partner can now take leave without pay to attend to their family's educational and medical needs.

The Office of Personnel Management announced the changes late last week, instructing federal agencies to extend 24 hours of leave without pay each year to gay federal workers, essentially allowing them to attend school functions and medical and dental appointments of their partner's children or to provide care to an elderly relative of their partner.

President Obama extended fringe benefits last year to the same-sex partners of federal workers, most of whom are now eligible for federal long-term health insurance, medical treatment, relocation assistance, credit unions and fitness centers. Gay and lesbian federal workers now also can take paid leave to care for sick or dying same-sex partners.

OPM Director John Berry said Tuesday that agencies also are reviewing plans to extend relocation assistance to same-sex partners, a benefit already granted to the partners of gay and lesbian State Department workers.

"Anything we can do to make our federal employees know that we respect them and we want to treat them equally, we should be about doing," Berry said.

The federal government's leave-without-pay policy is separate from the Family and Medical Leave Act, and Obama cannot extend full benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees unless Congress passes relevant legislation. Efforts to do so have stalled this year in the House and the Senate.

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