In advance of President Obama's remarks this afternoon on extending limited benefits to gay federal workers, Director of Personnel Management John Berry spoke to the press and said....very little.
He seemed to be reading from a brief, prepared statement that recapped what we already know: OPM investigated which benefits could be extended to same-sex partners of federal employees that were not circumscribed by DOMA.
It found two:
1. Domestic partners of federal employees can be added to the long-term care insurance program and
2. Supervisors can be required to allow employees to use sick leave to take care of domestic partners and non-biological, non-adopted children. (Note the "can" there, which was in a Press Office fact sheet sent earlier in the day. Berry repeated the "can" in his statement but later, in response to a question, said providing this sort of sick leave would be mandatory.)
What's not included?
The stuff that matters. Health insurance. Pension access. Life insurance. You know, the stuff that the majority of the Fortune 500 has been providing for years (as Berry helpfully pointed out). The stuff people actually want.
"This is a first step, not the final step," Berry said. "It gets the federal house in order. It's important to do -- it's practicing before preaching."
Well. I wish the White House would stop practicing and would start moving on gay civil rights issues for real.
Berry also said that a memo would be sent out to all Federal departments asking them to look for additional benefits they could extend, and instructing them that making employment decisions on the basis of anything other than job performance -- including sexual orientation and gender identity -- is not acceptable.
Unfortunately, as John Aravois of Americablog pointed out in a question, this guidance was already extended by Bill Clinton and was followed by George W. Bush. And the "benefits" are already provided by many supervisors at their discretion.
Berry, however, was not deterred in his optimism or support of the president. He said, "Gays and lesbians can be extremely proud that this president stands with us 100 percent on these core issues."
Hmmm. This lesbian will wait to be proud until the president starts taking action that matters.