President Barack Obama signed a memorandum on Wednesday formally extending benefits to federal employees in same-sex couples.
After a year of review, the president officially extended benefits to federal employees in domestic partnerships in one of the most high-profile moves to expand gay and lesbian rights.
"That process has now concluded, and I am proud to announce that earlier today, I signed a Memorandum that requires Executive agencies to take immediate action to extend to the same-sex domestic partners of Federal employees a number of meaningful benefits, from family assistance services to hardship transfers to relocation expenses," Obama said late Wednesday in a statement. "It also requires agencies that extend any new benefits to employees’ opposite-sex spouses to make those benefits available on equal terms to employees’ same-sex domestic partners to the extent permitted by law."
The president said, however, that existing federal law didn't go far enough to extend rights for same-sex couples, and renewed his call on Congress to pass the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act.
Obama's move on Wednesday capped off a year in which gay rights activists have complained that the president didn't move swiftly enough on campaign pledges to expand gay rights.
Another prong of Obama's promise to gay and lesbian Americans was the repeal of "Don't ask, don't tell," the military's longtime prohibition on openly gay or lesbian members of the military.
The House voted last week to repeal the policy pending a military review, as did a key Senate panel.