- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 17, 2009

President Obama’s decision to extend some benefits to the partners of gay and lesbian federal workers and Foreign Service employees is the “first step, not a final step” in the administration’s push for equality, said John Berry, director of the Office of Personnel Management and the highest ranking openly gay member of the administration.

Speaking to reporters on a conference call, Mr. Berry dismissed reporters’ suggestion that Mr. Obama was slow-walking some of his campaign promises about gay rights.

Gays and lesbians “can be extremely proud this president is with us and stands with us 100 percent on the core issues we care about deeply right now,” Mr. Berry said.

He said Mr. Obama remains committed to repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on gays serving openly in the military and the Defense of Marriage Act, both signed by President Clinton in the 1990s.

Mr. Berry said the White House has enough votes in Congress to pass hate crimes legislation, but “we have a ways to go” on the others.

“He will sign these bills when they are presented to him,” Mr. Berry said.

Mr. Obama Wednesday signed a presidential memorandum adding domestic and same-sex partners of federal workers to the long-term care insurance program and approving sick leave for the workers to take care of same-sex partners and non-biological children.

The memorandum does not offer life insurance or general health care benefits for same-sex partners, and Mr. Berry said the president would address next steps to implement those benefits in his evening remarks.

The memorandum will allow partners of Foreign Service employees to use medical facilities at posts abroad and to be included in housing, a change from previous policy.

Openly gay Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, said he would reserve judgment until Mr. Obama signs the memorandum.

But he did tell reporters that he found the memorandum’s contents to be “as far as you can go legally,” adding, “We have to get more legislative authority.”

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said the move seems to violate the Defense of Marriage Act and accuses Mr. Obama of using taxpayer funds “to placate an angry portion of his base at the expense of the rule of law.”

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