John Berry Hub

White House Issues Memorandum on Extension of Benefits to Same-Sex Domestic Partners of Federal Employees

Earlier yesterday, I reported that next month, same-sex partners of federal employees can begin applying for benefits. Late yesterday, a memo came from the White House:

Said OPM Director John Berry with regard to the memo: "This is another major step forward for gay and lesbian federal employees. But it’s also a good business practice -- this will help us retain valuable employees and better compete with other employers for top talent. President Obama has stated clearly that this is an issue of equality. But just as important, youth today, LGBT or not, see these benefits as a litmus test for determining high quality employers."

As Americablog notes: "Today's memo explains which benefits those are. (Hint: Don't get too excited. Health benefits still aren't included, but we're glad the furor we created help some federal employees get some benefits.) DOMA still prevents the granting of full benefits (and the Obama administration continues to defend DOMA in the courts.)"

Obama made note of that in a statement with the memo:

"While this Memorandum is an important step on the path to equality, my Administration continues to be prevented by existing Federal law from providing same-sex domestic partners with the full range of benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples. That is why, today, I renew my call for swift passage of an important piece of legislation pending in both Houses of Congress—the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act. This legislation, championed by Senators Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins and Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, would extend to the same-sex domestic partners of Federal employees the full range of benefits currently enjoyed by Federal employees’ opposite-sex spouses. I look forward to signing it into law."

As do we.

OPM: Same-Sex Partners of Federal Employees Can Apply for Benefits Next Month

A memo signed by Obama last June extending benefits to federal employees of same-sex partners will begin taking effect next month, and has been broadened "to include same-sex domestic partners of eligible federal workers, U.S. Postal Service workers and federal retirees" according to the Washington Post:

Capitol  "OPM will not extend access to opposite-sex domestic partners, because they can obtain the insurance through marriage, 'an option not currently available to same-sex domestic partners,' the agency wrote in Tuesday's Federal Register. OPM said same-sex couples can visit to complete a form that states they are each other's domestic partner and intend to stay together indefinitely. The federal worker must submit the form to their employer. Couples will not be required to provide further proof of the relationship, OPM said, because that 'would impose a greater burden on domestic partners than other qualified relatives.' The agency said it does not ask opposite-sex couples for bank statements or other proof of marriage."

Changes are detailed here.

Federal Agency Denies Benefits to Spouse of Lesbian Employee

In late November I posted about the White House's order to the Office of Personnel Management to defy a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judge's order to provide health benefits to the spouse of a lesbian employee.

Golinski Today, Kerry Eleveld reports:

"The Office of Personnel Management has concluded that it does not have the legal authority to provide benefits to the spouse of Karen Golinski, a staff attorney who works at the U.S. court of appeals for the ninth circuit in San Francisco...OPM attorneys consulted with the Department of Justice on this case, and the key to the case, according to the OPM official, was that Kozinski was presiding over an administrative proceeding that’s an internal employee grievance procedure — he was not serving in his official capacity as a ninth circuit judge. 'It’s important to understand that Judge Kozinski was acting as an administrative official in this matter, reacting to the concerns of an employee of the judiciary,' reads OPM’s statement official statement. 'He was not acting as a federal judge in a court case.' Based on that distinction, DOJ concluded that Kozinski’s order was not legally binding. If it were legally binding, OPM would have been faced with either appealing the decision or complying with the order."

They have a full statement from Elaine Kaplan, OPM General Counsel here.

Americablog goes off:

Funny, but that's the judge's job to decide, not some Obama appointee. You don't get to just decide that a judge doesn't have the authority to order you what to do. If you don't like it, you appeal. You don't just ignore it, a la George Bush. Even weird, the administration is now claiming that DOMA precludes them from following the judge's order.

Uh, would that be the same DOMA that candidate Obama called "abhorrent" during the campaign. The same DOMA that Obama promised to repeal. Yeah, not so much anymore. There's no plan to touch DOMA at all now. At least until Obama is re-elected, if he's re-elected. So now, yet again, we're told that because the President is refusing to follow through on his promise on DOMA, he can't do anything else for us because of DOMA.

Of course, it's interesting to note that DOMA came up during the review of this case, and the judge said DOMA wasn't even relevant. So now we have the Obama administration doing over the head of a judge to say that DOMA precludes them from doing something when the judge say it most certainly does not.

We reported this morning that Newsweek says Obama won't do anything on gay issues next year. Perhaps that's not entirely true. I have a hunch he's going to find the time to take a few more slaps at us, and then some.

White House OPM Chief John Berry Asked About Defiance of Court Order in Gay Spouse Health Benefits Case


In late November I posted about the White House's order to the Office of Personnel Management to defy a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judge's order to provide health benefits to the spouse of a lesbian employee. At the International Gay and Lesbian Leadership Conference over the weekend, the openly gay head of that agency, John Berry, was asked to explain his position in that case. Berry says neither he nor Obama have the authority to follow the court order.


Continue reading "White House OPM Chief John Berry Asked About Defiance of Court Order in Gay Spouse Health Benefits Case" »

Baldwin, Polis, and Berry: Hope for ENDA and DADT Vote in 2010

Rep. Tammy Baldwin and Jared Polis expressed optimism over the weekend at the 2009 International Gay & Lesbian Leadership Conference in San Francisco regarding pending gay rights legislation:

Baldwin Speaking to an international conference of gay politicians in San Francisco, U.S. Reps. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Jared Polis, D-Colo., said they expect a domestic partner benefits bill to come up for a vote by the end of the year and the employment bill to reach the floor early in 2010.

The lawmakers said they are also confident that the House will include in the annual military spending bill next year a provision to repeal the law that bans gays from serving in the U.S. military. All the measures face a harder time in the Senate following the death of longtime ally Sen. Edward Kennedy, but Baldwin and Polis said they remained optimistic.

"I'm hopeful we will see those three pieces of legislation make it all the way, or damn close," said Baldwin, who is sponsoring the federal worker domestic partner bill.

Office of Personnel Management director John Berry, the Obama administration's highest ranking gay appointee, told the conference that the president strongly supports the trio of gay rights measures.

Including transgender workers as part of the legislation to ban job discrimination and lifting the "don't ask, don't tell" ban on gay service members may especially meet opposition in Congress, Berry said. But he said that with a Democrat in the White House and Democratic majorities controlling the House and the Senate, victories were "within our grasp."

They also said that pressure on Obama should be eased: "Although gay activists have criticized President Barack Obama for not moving more quickly on their concerns, both Polis and Baldwin said the pressure should be directed at Congress because the president can not act alone."

Americablog has some questions for them...

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