POLL Obama: Extend benefits to same-sex partners

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— President Barack Obama ordered government agencies Wednesday to extend additional benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees, including child care services and expanded family leave.

The moves come a year after Obama signed a memorandum giving federal workers' same-sex partners a first round of benefits including visitation and dependent-care rights. At the same time he asked federal agencies to determine what other benefits could be given to domestic partners without Congress acting, and those he announced Wednesday were the results of that review.

They include child-care services and subsidies; more flexibility to use family leave to attend to the needs of domestic partners and their children; relocation benefits; giving domestic partners the same status as "family members" when federal appointments are made; and access to credit union and other memberships when those are provided to federal workers.

As with Obama's memo a year ago, this one covers only benefits that can be extended under existing law, without congressional action. Legislative action would be required for a full range of health care and other benefits. Health care benefits are the ultimate goal for many activists, and Obama supports them as well. In a statement he called on Congress to act on legislation to extend health benefits to same-sex partners.

"While this memorandum is an important step on the path to equality, my administration continues to be prevented by existing Federal law from providing same-sex domestic partners with the full range of benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples," Obama said.

It's the president's latest step to further gay rights. The White House recently backed a compromise on the military's "don't ask don't tell" policy on gays in the military that would move ahead on repeal but still allow the Pentagon time to implement new policies. In April, he moved to grant same-sex partners full visitation rights in hospitals.

Obama's approach on gay rights has been criticized as too cautious by gay activists, particularly on "don't ask don't tell."

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