The New York Times reports that strongly worded orders were submitted by two judges of the federal appeals court in California which said that employees of their court were entitled to health benefits for their same-sex partners under the program that insures millions of federal workers.
But the federal Office of Personnel Management has instructed insurers not to provide the benefits ordered by the judges, citing the Defense of Marriage Act.
In a letter on Feb. 20 to the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, an arm of the federal judiciary, Lorraine E. Dettman, assistant director of the personnel office, said, “Plans in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program may not provide coverage for domestic partners, or legally married partners of the same sex, even though recognized by state law.”
Benefits are available to the spouse of a federal employee, Ms. Dettman said, but the 1996 law stipulates that “the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.”
Ben LaBolt, a White House spokesman, said: “While the president opposes gay marriage, he supports legislative repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. He believes this country must realize its founding promise of equality by treating all its citizens with dignity and respect.”
Mr. Obama and his choice for director of the personnel office, M. John Berry, have endorsed the idea of providing health benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.