Obama extends federal benefits for same-sex partners

In a move apparently designed to appease a dissatisfied gay community, President Obama will extend benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees later Wednesday.

The president, set to sign the memo in the Oval Office, will add domestic partners of civil service employees to long-term healthcare insurance and require supervisors to allow those employees to use sick leave to take care of their partners and children who are "non-biological, non-adopted," according to a White House fact sheet.

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Foreign service employees' same-sex partners will be allowed to use medical facilities at posts abroad, be eligible for medical evacuation and be included for family-size housing.

Obama's memo will direct the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to issue guidance within 90 days "to all executive departments and agencies regarding compliance with, and implementation of, the civil service laws, which make it unlawful to discriminate against federal employees or applicants for federal employment on the basis of factors not related to job performance."

The White House said the president's action comes following a review by OPM and the secretary of State. The memo will "also request the heads of all other executive branch departments and agencies to conduct internal reviews to determine whether other benefits they administer might be similarly extended," with a report to be filed to the OPM.

Much of the gay community has been up in arms by what some see as a betrayal by the Democratic president after he has failed to act to change the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy and remained opposed to gay marriage. Obama does support civil unions.

Conservative religious activists, however, said the president's actions Wednesday violate the spirit and the letter of the Defense of Marriage Act.

"President Obama's planned executive order [sic] uses taxpayer money to placate an angry portion of his base at the expense of the rule of law," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. "Ironically, Mr. Obama has pursued an aggressive pro-homosexual agenda — but his actions to date are, apparently, insufficient for the radical homosexuals pushing their extreme demands."

On The Hill's Blog Briefing Room: Benefits change raises questions about 'Don't ask, don't tell.' Click here to discuss.