March 13, 2009
Will he or won't he?
Posted by: Andoni
The New York Times says President Barack Obama is in a tough spot with regard to whether he should allow the federal government to provide health insurance benefits to partners of same sex couples as two California federal appeals court judges ruled yesterday.
The Office of Personnel Management has instructed insurers not to obey the judges' order because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). And of course religious conservatives such as Gary Bauer, president of American Values, are threatening (in an almost gleeful manner) that if Obama provides these benefits it will reinvigorate the conservative coalition. To complicate all this further is the fact that Obama's designated, but unconfirmed, new director of the Office of Personnel Management is M. John Berry, a gay man.
The judges' ruling was not the result of of a lawsuit but as part of a ruling as employers resolving employee grievances.
I don't think Obama is in as tough a position as the Times says he is. He should simply say this is not about marriage, it's about equal pay for equal work. The partner benefits are part of the pay package for federal employees and the federal government cannot and will not be part of discrimination that pays some employees less than others for the exact same work. He can even say, "Let me be clear about this" so we know he means business.
There really is no other way to provide equality, because the insurance package is more than just the money involved to pay for the partner's insurance; a major benefit is the access to that insurance as well. In most instances the partner would not be able to buy this good insurance on their own.
Unfortunately, the IRS will tax this insurance benefit as income, which is patently unfair, but that's a different matter that is best left to fight about on another day.
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