Today’s Q’s for O’s White House

By Gorman Gorman

Oct 5, 2009 2:39pm

ABC News' David Wright reports:

Wright: You mentioned the president will be speaking at the Human Rights Campaign event.  Recently we saw this white house issue an executive order banning federal employees from text messaging while driving, why not do the same thing with domestic partnership benefits, especially health care and pension benefits?

Gibbs: The president has been working on it.  I don’t have an update on it.  But We talked about that a few months ago, about extending some benefits.

Wright: But not health benefits.

Gibbs: I don’t have an update on where we are

Wright: he’s been campaigning around the country on health care reform, here the president could take a step that would be of great interest to gays and lesbians.

Gibbs: I’d have to look and see where we are.

UPDATE: The White House followed up late today with a response to my question.  Apparently, the president cannot simply issue an executive order extending health benefits to the same-sex partners of federal workers.  Under the statute, only “spouses” are entitled to those benefits and the Defense of Marriage Act defines “spouse” to mean only a husband or wife.

Obama has, in the past, expressed support for the Federal Employee Benefits and Obligation Act – a measure sponsored by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., and Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., — which would extend health and pension benefits to same sex domestic partners of federal employees, with the exception of members of the armed forces who are subject to the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, the LGBT group Obama has agreed to address Saturday, nearly 60% of Fortune 500 companies already offer full health and pension benefits to the families of their gay and lesbian employees, as do 23 states and more than 150 local governments.

-David Wright

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