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Obama Throws a Bone to Gay and Lesbians with Benefits for Federal Employees

Obama Throws a Bone to Gay and Lesbians with Benefits for Federal Employees

President BarackObama is expected to sign a memorandum on Wednesday in the Oval Office that would extend benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees but excluding access to health or retirement plans. Under growing criticism for not taking active measures to end the ban on openly gay men and women in the military, and his support of a federal DOMA case and his reticence about Prop 8, Obama's decision attempts to show the administration's commitment to ensuring that certain basic rights and privileges are to gays and lesbians.

President Barack Obama is expected to sign a memorandum that would extend benefits to same-sex partners of federal employee, however excluding them from access to health or retirement plans, according to the New York Times.

Under growing criticism for not taking active measures to end the ban on openly gay men and women in the military, and his support of a federal DOMA case and his reticence about Prop 8, Obama's decision attempts to show the administration's commitment to ensuring that certain basic rights and privileges are extended to all Americans. It is also a political move some believe will provide Joe Biden something positive to say at the June 25 Democratic National Committee fund-raising that has so far seen prominent guests drop out and which is expected to be marked by protests.

Meanwhile President Obama's plan is drawing lukewarm reactions so far. Gay and lesbian activists had expected Obama to take action at the beginning of June -- gay pride month -- if not earlier, since during his campaign, Obama repeatedly pledged to "fight hard" for the rights of gay couples.

"Extending benefits to partners of gay federal employees is terrific, but at this point he is under enormous pressure from the gay civil rights community for having promised the moon and done nothing so far," Richard Socarides, an adviser to the Clinton administration on gay issues, said Tuesday evening. "So more important now is what he says tomorrow about the future for gay people during his presidency."

The presidential memorandum  which was being completed Tuesday evening is scheduled for signing at 5:45 p.m (EST) at which point President Obama will officially release the full details of its content.

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Mona Elyafi