UPDATE: The text of the memo is available here, and is also printed below the fold.
Well here it is. In his comments Obama said he support the Domestic Partners Benefits & Obligations Act which, if passed, would give federal employees full spousal benefits. Tammy Baldwin is an author of that bill, and was present at the event today.
Obama also said he would work with Congress to repeal DOMA, but of course gave no indication that this was going to happen in our lifetimes. He used vague words such as “in the months and years ahead”. He failed to say anything even vaguely resembling “I’m going to be pounding on Reid & Pelosi’s desks until we get those abominations DADT & DOMA repealed!!!”
THE PRESIDENT: Well, today I’m proud to issue a presidential memorandum that paves the way for long-overdue progress in our nation’s pursuit of equality.
Many of our government’s hard-working, dedicated, and patriotic public servants have long been denied basic rights that their colleagues enjoy for one simple reason — the people that they love are of the same sex.
Currently, for example, LGBT federal employees can’t always use sick leave to care for their domestic partners or their partners’ children. Their partners aren’t covered under long-term care insurance. Partners of American Foreign Service officers abroad aren’t treated the same way when it comes to the use of medical facilities or visitation rights in case of an emergency.
These are just some of the wrongs that we intend to right today.
In consultation with Secretary of State Clinton, as well as OPM Director John Berry, my administration has completed a long and thorough review to identify a number of areas where we can extend federal benefits to the same-sex partners of Foreign Service and executive branch government employees.
I’m requesting that Secretary Clinton and Director Berry do so where possible under existing law — and that the heads of all executive departments and agencies conduct reviews to determine where they may do the same.
Hundreds of Fortune 500 companies already offer such benefits not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because they recognize that it helps them compete for and retain the best possible talent — and we need top talent serving their country right now more than ever.
Now, under current law, we cannot provide same-sex couples with the full range of benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples.
“That’s why I’m proud to announce my support for the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act, crucial legislation that will guarantee these rights for all federal employees.
I want to thank Representative Tammy Baldwin, who is behind me somewhere — there she is, right there — for her tireless leadership on this bill and in the broader struggle for equality. I want to thank Senator Joe Lieberman — Joe is here — as well as Susan Collins for championing this bill in the Senate; and Representative Barney Frank for his leadership on this and so many other issues — in fact, this is his second trip to the White House today. (Laughter.)
It’s a day that marks a historic step towards the changes we seek, but I think we all have to acknowledge this is only one step. Among the steps we have not yet taken is to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. I believe it’s discriminatory, I think it interferes with states’ rights, and we will work with Congress to overturn it.
We’ve got more work to do to ensure that government treats all its citizens equally; to fight injustice and intolerance in all its forms; and to bring about that more perfect union. I’m committed to these efforts, and I pledge to work tirelessly on behalf of these issues in the months and years to come.
Thank you very much everybody, and with that I am going to sign this executive order.
(The memorandum is signed.) (Applause.)
END 6:08 P.M. EDT
Also present were OPM Director John Berry, Fred Hochberg, the president of the Export-Import Bank of United States, Rea Carey, executive Director of the Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of Family Equality, Leonard Hirsch, the president of the Federal GLOBE, Lorilyn “Candy” Holmes, a career federal employee, and Joe Solmonese, the president of the Human Rights Campaign.
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release June 17, 2009
June 17, 2009
MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES
SUBJECT: Federal Benefits and Non-Discrimination
Millions of hard-working, dedicated, and patriotic public servants are employed by the Federal Government as part of the civilian workforce, and many of these devoted Americans have same-sex domestic partners. Leading companies in the private sector are free to provide to same-sex domestic partners the same benefits they provide to married people of the opposite sex. Executive departments and agencies, however, may only provide benefits on that basis if they have legal authorization to do so. My Administration is not authorized by Federal law to extend a number of available Federal benefits to the same-sex partners of Federal employees. Within existing law, however, my Administration, in consultation with the Secretary of State, who oversees our Foreign Service employees, and the Director of the Office of Personnel Management, who oversees human resource management for our civil service employees, has identified areas in which statutory authority exists to achieve greater equality for the Federal workforce through extension to same-sex domestic partners of benefits currently available to married people of the opposite sex. Extending available benefits will help the Federal Government compete with the private sector to recruit and retain the best and the brightest employees.
I hereby request the following:
Section 1. Extension of Identified Benefits. The Secretary of State and the Director of the Office of Personnel Management shall, in consultation with the Department of Justice, extend the benefits they have respectively identified to qualified same-sex domestic partners of Federal employees where doing so can be achieved and is consistent with Federal law.
Sec. 2. Review of Governmentwide Benefits. The heads of all other executive departments and agencies, in consultation with the Office of Personnel Management, shall conduct a review of the benefits provided by their respective departments and agencies to determine what authority they have to extend such benefits to same-sex domestic partners of Federal employees. The results of this review shall be reported within 90 days to the Director of the Office of Personnel Management, who, in consultation with the Department of Justice, shall recommend to me any additional measures that can be taken, consistent with existing law, to provide benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of Federal Government employees.
Sec. 3. Promoting Compliance with Existing Law Requiring Federal Workplaces to be Free of Discrimination Based on Non-Merit Factors. The Office of Personnel Management shall issue guidance within 90 days to all executive departments and agencies regarding compliance with, and implementation of, the civil service laws, rules, and regulations, including 5 U.S.C. 2302(b)(10), which make it unlawful to discriminate against Federal employees or applicants for Federal employment on the basis of factors not related to job performance.
Sec. 4. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) Authority granted by law or Executive Order to an agency, or the head thereof; or
(ii) Functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.
(b) This memorandum shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
(c) This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
Sec. 5. Publication. The Director of the Office of Personnel Management is hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.
National Center for Lesbian Rights responds:
A statement from NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell on the Presidential Memorandum
(San Francisco, California, June 17, 2009) – The policy announced today by the President committing to a federal workplace free from discrimination, is a step in the right direction but inadequate and long overdue. It leaves out millions of Americans who do not work for the federal government and fails to include key benefits including health insurance. When running for office, then candidate Obama called equality for LGBT people a “moral imperative.” We will continue to demand this administration live up to the President’s promise of achieving “full equality for the millions of LGBT people in this country.”
Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) responds:
Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin Statement on President Obama’s Signing of a Presidential Memorandum on Federal Benefits and Non-Discrimination
June 17, 2009
(Congresswoman Baldwin attended today’s signing ceremony in the Oval Office.)
“President Obama’s orders today will make a real difference in people’s lives. Domestic partners, parents, and their children will now receive a number of meaningful benefits currently granted other federal employees.
LGBT Americans yearn for full equality. After last week’s U.S. Department of Justice filing seeking to dismiss a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), many in the LGBT community, myself included, were profoundly disappointed. After that disappointment, I was heartened to hear the President make a strong case today for the repeal of DOMA.
It was also gratifying to hear the President proudly announce his support for my Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act of 2009. I look forward to working with him and House and Senate leaders as we work toward passage of this legislation that will extend to the same-sex partners of Federal employees all of the benefits currently enjoyed by the opposite-sex spouses of Federal employees.
President Obama said today that his Memorandum is just a start. I agree that it is an important step in the quest for full equality for LGBT Americans. I welcome the challenge and the President’s support.”