Ah, those pesky details.
As you may have heard, President Obama tomorrow will be signing a presidential directive, not an executive order, providing “some” benefits to gay and lesbian employees. Well, the details, murky that they are, are coming. And they aren’t great.
First off, Chuck Todd on MSNBC said that because this is only a “memorandum,” as he called it, it will expire when Obama leaves office. Lovely. Second, health benefits for federal employees won’t be covered. Why? Because of DOMA, so says the Advocate.
Just which benefits will gay federal employees be getting? The White House is refusing to say. But it’s unlikely it’s anything involving money, like Social Security, or, as we now know, health care. Which is ironic, since health care is Obama’s number one issue (but not for us). Also ironic, which I wrote about earlier, is that health care reform likely won’t cover us either, since they’d have to include us as “families” and “dependents” – and let’s face it, they just compared us to incest and pedophilia, does anyone think this administration or this congress is going to define us as “family” in their health care package? (It’s also not clear that DOMA would let health care reform provide us any benefits anyway.) In any case, Obama’s inaction on DOMA, and outright defense of DOMA, is now undercutting his other efforts, meager that they are, to help us. It’s all tied together.
And what about the US military, the single largest bloc of federal employees. Do you think they’re getting benefits under this program? Highly unlikely. Sure, civilian members of the military might, but active duty? Good luck. And in any case, they couldn’t file for benefits because then they’d be outing themselves under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
So, because of Obama’s inaction on his main presidential campaign promises to our community – DOMA and DADT – we have a scenario in which gays will get fewer benefits than their straight colleagues, and some gay federal employees will get benefits (civilians) while others (military) will not. See how complicated it gets to do anything when you fail to keep your basic promises?
The other announcement Obama will be making is a non-discrimination “something.” Basically, he’s going to add “gender identity” (i.e., transgender persons) to the existing federal non-discrimination policy that already covers gay people, and even Bill Clinton adopted the initial non-discrimination policy in the 1990s. And even George Bush left the policy in place. So, yes, this is a small step forward, but very small indeed.