[JURIST] US President Barack Obama [official website] on Wednesday signed [statement] a memorandum [text, PDF] that would provide certain benefits to same-sex domestic partners of federal employees. In a fact sheet [text] released earlier in the day, the White House disclosed that the Director of the Office of Personnel Management and the Secretary of State have been working for several months to determine what benefits may be extended under existing law [Defense of Marriage Act]. In terms of what benefits will be extended, the fact sheet states,
For civil service employees, domestic partners of federal employees can be added to the long-term care insurance program; supervisors can also be required to allow employees to use their sick leave to take care of domestic partners and non-biological, non-adopted children. For foreign service employees, a number of benefits were identified, including the use of medical facilities at posts abroad, medical evacuation from posts abroad, and inclusion in family size for housing allocations.
In his statement, Obama also announced his support for the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act [HR 2517 materials], which was introduced in the House in late May. Gay rights group Human Rights Campaign [advocacy website] has called the memorandum [press release] "an important first step" toward achieving equality, but others have criticized it [NYT op-ed] for not including health care or retirement benefits.
Several states have recently passed legislation to allow same-sex marriages, which would grant gay couples access to all the rights and benefits available to heterosexual married couples. Last month, Maine became the fifth state to allow same-sex marriage [JURIST report] when Governor John Baldacci signed a same-sex marriage bill into law. In April, Vermont became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage through a vote of the legislature, joining Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa [JURIST reports] as the other states that allow same-sex marriage.