News broke last night that President Obama plans to sign a memorandum this afternoon granting benefits to unmarried domestic partners of federal employees, including same-sex partners.
WASHINGTON â€“ President Barack Obama, whose gay and lesbian supporters have grown frustrated with his slow movement on their priorities, is extending benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees, a White House official said.
Obama planned to announce his decision Wednesday in the Oval Office, the official said. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because Obama had not signed a presidential memorandum putting his plan into place.
Taken at face value, it’s…nice. It’s a good idea and something that the administration should be applauded for. In fact, I do applaud President Obama for this. But there are several reasons The Homosexuals are skeptical.
- It’s reportedly a memorandum, not an Executive Order. There is some confusion about this, with the Washington Post reporting it as an Executive Order but just about every other source I’ve seen, including the New York Times, reports it as a memorandum.
The difference is important. If this is an Executive Order, it would take another Executive Order to cancel the benefits. If it’s a memorandum, the benefits evaporate the second President Obama leaves office. In the language of Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, that would not be a lasting and durable solution.
- It may not include health care or retirement benefits. There’s confusion about that one as well. Some say that DOMA, which the Obama administration now defends, effectively prohibits health care and retirement support for same-sex partners. Others say that these are covered under the memorandum if it references not spouses, but rather broadens the group of people covered by the federal government.
- This whole event seems like a bandage to most commentators I’ve read. The gay community has gotten louder and rowdier since the Obama administration made clear its true thoughts on DOMA. As the AP story notes, Vice President Biden is scheduled to attend a Democratic party fund raiser with a special emphasis on LGBT rights next week.
Several big donors have publicly expressed their anger and have told organizers that they will not be attending or donating any more money to the Democratic party. Two of the three out gay members of Congress, who are jointly leading the fund raiser, have expressed their outrage over the apparent change in support from President Obama. The fund raiser is turning into a PR disaster, and that’s what the Obama administration is responding to.
Politically speaking, the timing of this memorandum is the biggest problem. It’s as if they sat down in the Oval Office and said “Uh oh, we’ve gone too far. What’s the least possible action President Obama could take to get The Homosexuals to shut up and patiently wait while we ignore them for another five months?” The fact that the signing will happen at 5:45 in the evening, making it nearly impossible to be substantially reported on tonight’s evening news and improbable to be mentioned at all on tomorrow’s evening news, only makes me more suspicious.
And other than announcing that the White House dog is gay, I can’t think of something less that President Obama could do.