Update: Just got off of the conference call with Director of the Office of Personnel Management John Berry. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a question in, but I can say that the press, as a whole, are very unimpressed with this move. I expect there will be a lot of negative press on this. The tone of the questioning was uniformly skeptical.
On the other hand, Berry did stress, repeatedly, that this memo’s reach is restricted by DOMA. It almost seemed as though Berry was saying that this very weak tea is designed to whet the public appetite for a DOMA repeal. If so, the administration’s defense of DOMA is that much more mystifying.
Berry also tried to pretend that a Presidential memo is the same as an executive order, but was called on it. The memo expires with the President’s term. He again stressed the need for a more permanent, legislative solution in response.
Another reporter pointed out that most, if not all, of the benefits in this memo are already available to at least some federal employees. Berry responded that this action removes such decisions from the individual supervisor’s discretion.
The White House has just released a fact sheet regarding the Presidential Memorandum to be signed later today. While any progress against discrimination is welcome, this seems like a poorly-timed half-measure.
The benefits outlined in the fact sheet aren’t going to impress anyone, and coming, as they do, when President Obama is under fire from the LGBTQ community and its allies, I predict very loud shrugging in response. If you can’t afford a dozen roses, maybe you ought to skip the dandelions.
A press conference call is scheduled for 3 pm. I should have more to say about this then. Here is the full text of the fact sheet:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 17, 2009
Fact Sheet: Presidential Memorandum on Federal Benefits and Non-Discrimination
In an Oval Office event later today, President Barack Obama will sign a Presidential Memorandum on Federal Benefits and Non-Discrimination. The Memorandum follows a review by the Director of the Office of Personnel Management ant the Secretary of State regarding what benefits may be extended to the same-sex partners of federal employees in the civil service and the foreign service within the confines of existing federal laws and statutes.
Over the past several months, the Director of the Office of Personnel Management and the Secretary of State have conducted internal reviews to determine whether the benefits they administer may be extended to the same-sex partners of federal employees within the confines of existing laws and statutes. Both identified a number of such benefits.
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.
The Presidential Memorandum to be signed today will request that the Director of OPM and the Secretary of State act to extend to same-sex partners of federal employees the benefits they have identified. The Memorandum will also request the heads of all other executive branch departments and agencies to conduct internal reviews to determine whether other benefits they administer might be similarly extended, and to report the results of those reviews to the Director of OPM.
The Memorandum will also direct OPM to issue guidance within 90 days to all executive departments and agencies regarding compliance with, and implementation of, the civil service laws, which make it unlawful to discriminate against federal employees or applicants for federal employment on the basis of factors not related to job performance.