The Washington Blade is concerned. As am I. I wrote back in June about the very real possibility that health care reform could exclude gay families.
They’d rather pass a health care reform bill that excludes gay families from benefits. Oh yeah, didn’t you know that? Do you honestly think Obama/Congress’ health care reform bill is going to include gay families in their definition of spouses and dependents? Please. And while I’m told by at least one gay legal expert that Congress “could” include language providing benefits for gay families and not run afoul of DOMA (simply don’t provide benefits based on “marriage” or quasi-marriage (aka civil unions)) – and it’s not at all clear to me that DOMA, that other pesky little promise that Obama has now backstabbed us on, won’t negate us getting benefits even if the bill provides them – does anybody really believe that Obama and Reid are going to include language recognizing gay families as dependents? Remember, it might upset the Republicans and the religious conservatives if we get our civil rights, and the Democrats don’t do things that make 20% of the population angry.
But since we raised the issue in June, and it’s now five months later, I’m sure the president’s gay adviser, Brian Bond, has raised this issue to the president and gotten it fixed. After all, it would be pretty crass of the White House to pass legislation that excluded gay families. I can’t imagine that would go over very well in a community that’s already pretty ticked off at the White House and the Democratic party overall.
It seems this concern is finally getting some traction. The gist of the problem? What is a “family”? And even better – guess who gets to decide? The Obama administration. Anyone want to take bets on whether the President sides with us, or whether he instead, yet again, says he just can’t lift a finger to help us until DOMA is repealed – even though he’s doing nothing to move us towards a DOMA repeal.
As gay rights supporters praise the House’s recently unveiled health care bill for its LGBT and HIV/AIDS provisions, some acknowledge the Defense of Marriage Act could restrict benefits from flowing to LGBT people, depending on how the administration interprets the statute.
The $894 billion package, made public last week by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, compiled the work of three committees that produced health care bills. It includes a government-run insurance option that could extend coverage to about 36 million uninsured Americans.
Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), the only out lesbian in Congress and an advocate for the health care reform bill, said she’s expecting House members to approve the legislation soon following floor debate.
But the bill, H.R. 3962, uses the terms “family” and “dependent,” and advocates say the new Health Choices Commissioner — a position established in the legislation to oversee the insurance exchange — could interpret this language to mean someone’s opposite-sex spouse, but not a same-sex spouse.