Obama’s benefits memo: Still too many buts

Posted on 19 Jun 2009 at 12:28am
By Hardy Haberman Contributing Writer

Move by the president to extend some benefits doesn’t make up for DOJ brief on DOMA, lack of progress on other LGBT issues

President Obama on Wednesday signed a measure to give LGBT federal employees some benefits for their same-sex partners.

OK, all well and good … but.

After the outrageous brief filed by the Department of Justice defending the Defense of Marriage Act, this signing has all the earmarks of a token event.

Right now under current law, federal agencies already have the right to give these benefits to gay and lesbian employees. Domestic partners of federal employees can be added to the long-term care insurance programs. The order can require supervisors to allow employees to use their sick leave caring for domestic partners and non-biological, non-adopted children.

This was all spelled out in a "Guidance Memo" during the Clinton Administration.

Granted it was "guidance," not an order.

But the big issue — one that Obama has been talking about for weeks now — is health care. Lambda Legal sums up the problem in this quote from their statement on the signing:

"President Obama clearly understands how important it is for people to have health insurance coverage to protect their loved ones and this plan does not provide that."
In the words of the late Clara Peller, "Where’s the beef?"

Now to give credit where it is due, it is a step, but only a timid baby step.

Right now, the LGBT community — on the eve of the 40th anniversary of Stonewall — is looking for proof that we backed the right candidate in the election and baby steps are not going to cut it.

Another surprising "but" in this order is that the benefits do not extend to same-sex partners of gay and lesbian armed services members. They are still laboring under the unfair treatment of "don’t ask, don’t tell," and this bill just rubs their nose in that fact.

It’s a catch 22 for them: "Well if we knew you were gay you would have benefits for your partners. But (another of those buts again) if we knew you were gay you wouldn’t be a federal employee anymore!"

Nice position to put people in who put their lives on the line for this country, isn’t it?

Do I sound frustrated? Oh hell yes!

There is so much that could be done to bring real equality to LGBT Americans, and if this president isn’t going to do it, who will? It kind of makes you want to march in the streets.

Hey there’s an idea! Of course it would require actually taking some time from our busy lives and standing up for something other than a parade.

It would require that we understand exactly why we are still denied the basic rights every other American has strictly because we were born gay or lesbian. It would require passing on that second cocktail and putting that money toward an organization that was actually working for our rights.

It would require giving a damn.

But … .

Another damned but!

Well I think the LGBT community has had enough "buts" from our lawmakers and elected officials. It’s time we got off our butts and demanded equal rights.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

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