Alex Blaze

Some benefits extended to federal employees

Filed By Alex Blaze | June 03, 2010 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: benefits, DOMA, domestic partner, Don't Ask Don't Tell, insurance, LGBT, long-term health care, military

Some progress:

The same-sex partners of gay and lesbian federal workers can start applying next month for long-term health-care insurance, the Office of Personnel Management said Tuesday.

That's great, because long-term health insurance can be incredibly expensive. The more people who have quality long-term health insurance, the better.

Of course, there'll be some who say this isn't enough, and it isn't. Regular health care benefits aren't extended here, although the bill to extend those to same-sex partners has already made it through committee and is expected to make it to the floor of the Senate this month (we'll see, of course).

What's been surprising is the number of queer commentators saying how this only affects a small number of people, as if that's ever been a reason for the LGBT community not to advocate for something. Marriage only affects those LGB people in long-term relationships who choose to participate in the institution, which isn't most of us. DADT only affects those of us in the military or who plan on enlisting if it gets repealed, which really doesn't account for the swaths of people who'll never enlist discussing DADT.

Nothing's stopped us before from celebrating progress that benefits only a sector of the community, and federal workers are great people to celebrate.

Federal workers are more than "people too." One of the most badass women I know works for the post office out here. Alberto and I went to visit his postal worker cousin, whose daughter was having some problem with her credit card company. We could only hear half of the conversation, and she mentioned something about how the form couldn't have been lost in the mail, and her mother the postal worker grabbed the phone and shouted: "I'm a postal worker. A postal worker! So don't give me any bullshit about the mail!"* It was real - don't mess with a postal worker.

Especially in the US with its remote regions that otherwise wouldn't have had much contact with the outside world before the popularization of the internet (and still don't have much internet access). I had a friend in college who spent a summer working at the post office sorting mail overnight. He said it was painful, working those long hours, and the people who were there too long hated it but stayed there because it was a stable job with a decent paycheck and benefits. And LGBT postal workers deserve those same benefits.

And not just the postal workers, but the entire federal bureaucracy. Think about how many wonderful programs would come to a screeching halt if there weren't federal workers: health, food safety, tax collection (which funds The Troops' paychecks), interstate highway maintenance, telecommunication regulation, distribution of safety net programs like food stamps, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.... The list goes on and on. While Republicans have been attacking the federal bureaucracy for decades now, in hopes that they can reduce it and its services and therefore lower taxes for their patrons, federal workers do their jobs and keep this country running. Their work is nothing to laugh at.

Last, if everyone who was LGB came out and got discharged from the military today (which I completely advocate - it'd be a great way to speed up DADT repeal), the US military would still function fine. We have a military with more money than every other country's military combined, and much larger than any potential threat. We'd be fine with a five or so percent reduction in military forces.

But if everyone who was LGB in the federal bureaucracy got up and quit? If they all found better jobs with better benefits in the private sector? With all the understaffed federal bureaus there are the government would come to a screeching halt. Queer federal workers keep this country running.

So instead of the reaction being a completely-inconsistent-with-DADT-and-marriage-advocacy "This doesn't affect meeeeeeee," I'm hoping Tammy Baldwin's Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act passes this year. I'm much more likely to work for the federal government one day than I am to work for the US military.

*Je suis postière. Postière ! Donc ne me dites pas des conneries sur la Poste !

Fun stuff, the rest of us were in the next room giggling quietly.

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It is great to have any mopre benefits offered than before but obviously this is jsut one step.
What would be better is full benefits that are not taxed heavily due to being domestic partners. I have recently been hit with a huge tax increase due to putting my partner on my health,dental and vision plans with a new company. I am unable to marry obviously so it is a double whammy of discrimination. I am so disgusted by this! It is so wrong that I have a generous company but get penalized due to it. This was in the Health Care bill to remove this penalty but was stripped out during the process. We need to push for this to be done so we are not taxed on this benefit!

Ditto to your comment, Rann. My putting my partner on my insurance benefits resulted in a tax bill of thousands. I went deeply into debt to cover it.

Goodness Alex!
Wonderful news, an incomplete extension of some limited rights to some federal employees.And the next president, likely to be McPalinabee, can rescind said rights with a sneeze.

I've called for a table at Colors in the Village this eve to celebrate.

I am not excoriating you, dear man, more the situation where we get so very little in the way of what ought to be our "inalienable rights" that something this limited and inadequate becomes a victory.

Excoriate away! Feel free! It's not enough!

It's a better reason to excoriate, though, than "This isn't MEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" which has been the most common response I've seen.

Michael @ | June 3, 2010 2:28 PM

First, we trust your assertion that the gigantic civilian federal workforce would "come to a screeching halt" without LGBT employees was a joke.

So on to reality, an important part of which that gay high school newspaper, The Advocate, surprisingly revealed in their article on Obama's latest crumbathon:

"some agencies, like the intelligence agencies and financial regulatory agencies, have greater discretion in establishing terms and conditions of employment, including the benefits available to their employees. Some have used that authority to provide health insurance, dental and vision insurance, life insurance, and other benefits to the same-sex partners of their employees."

But its reporters apparently failed to invest the time to find out HOW this is possible when Obama says it isn't and they didn't even mention that Lambda Legal is SUING the director of the Office of Personnel [White] House Fagroe John Berry for DEFYING A COURT ORDER to let a lesbian federal court employee, Karen Golinski, get insurance for her partner of 20 years EVEN THO the judge has said it would NOT violate DOMA...and it wouldnt' cost the government ANOTHER CENT!


"The U.S. Office of Personnel Management ("OPM") then interfered, however, directing Karen's insurer to defy Judge Kozinski's orders and not enroll Amy in Karen's family health plan. President Obama's administration has continued aggressively to defy Kozinski's orders, while also refusing to offer its legal arguments in court. Repeated conversations with administration attorneys and representatives have yielded no progress, leaving us to wonder - where is the "fierce advocate" for LGBT rights that President Obama promised us? The administration made its case during the health care debate about the need to have more people in group health plans-the very solution it so vigorously denies Karen.

After OPM flouted no fewer than four court orders from Judge Kozinski, we were forced to initiate an enforcement case in federal court."

Obambots and gay "Good Germans" are always saying re the ODOJ's defense in court of DOMA and DADT, continue discharges, ad nauseum, that Obama Inc. weally weally wants to do the right thing, but they "have to follow the law."

Well, the Golinski case proves there is something far more rotten in DC than cheese in the summer sun. Here's the PERFECT opportunity for them to DO the right thing by letting her and other gay OPM employees get medical insurance for their partners, even without adding to government cost, and SAY, should they be attacked by the Right, we're just following the judge's order, and they REFUSE.

Just like they continue to refuse to act upon the 9th Circuit ruling in "Witt v. USAF" that is more than a YEAR AND A HALF OLD which SHOULD [until her case is finally decided] bar ANY discharges of any service member in AK, AZ, CA, GU, HI, ID, MP, MT, NV, OR, WA.

There are over 200,000 service members stationed in California alone. One of the gays the ruling would have applied to was August Provost, the sailor at Camp Pendleton murdered at his guard post by a military nut case who had stormed onto the base hoping to set fire to it. [Despite early suspicions, it apparently was not in any way a hate crime.]

Victor Fehrenbach, was recommended for discharge AFTER that ruling, and, apparently, in violation of it because he's stationed in Idaho.

The head of our new Fourth Branch of Government, SECDEF Robert Gates promised Feb. 2nd that how they were going to implement the court's ruling would be a part of his announcements 45-days later.

Still those countless gay federal employees who don't benefit [literally] from creative managers while our Manager-in-Chief hides behind DOMA.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | June 3, 2010 4:19 PM

Alex, my other half came home the other day all smiling because he'd instantly won around $ 20.00 (or that's what he told me, anyway) in the Powerball lottery. I instantly and justifiably flew into a rage at him because he didn't hit the big multi-million dollar jackpot. Serves him right, even though he shared his paltry winnings with me. Forget about the "glass is half full versus half empty it's not running over the top and if it didn't happen yesterday, it just even worth cracking a smile.....even for a microsecond.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | June 3, 2010 4:24 PM

Ooops, make that last sentence "'s just not worth cracking a smile....even for a microsecond." Your whole perverse love of rejoicing about the good fortune of someone other than "MEEEEEE" has my whole proofreading routine turned upside down."

This is obviously just more crumbs being tossed our way as an apology for the impending Big Screw on ENDA. Yes, it's nice that some federal employees get some benefits they didn't have, but this nibbling around the edges of the real problem, protecting relative handfuls of LGBT's while continuing to deny basic civil rights to the other 99% of the American LGBT workforce is just sad, pathetic, and not at all credible.

Rick Sours | June 4, 2010 9:28 AM

Extension of long term health insurance is a step in the right direction.

One issue that greatly affects "spouses" of same-sex couples is survivor benefits. Different form heterosexual couples, if one individuals dies the other is not entitled to any of their pension/retirement benefits.

My Partner and I personally have seen how this affected someone we deeply care about when his Partner died unexpectedly after they were both retired.