In a move to promote equality and compete with corporate America for smart and talented workers, the Obama administration will begin providing benefits and allowances to same-sex domestic partners of federal employees.

“Millions of hard-working, dedicated, and patriotic public servants are employed by the federal government as part of the civilian workforce, and many of these devoted Americans have same-sex domestic partners,” President Obama said in a statement this week.

And giving same-sex domestic partners the benefits currently available to married people of the opposite sex will “help the [State] Department attract and retain personnel in a competitive environment where domestic partner benefits and allowances are increasingly the norm for world-class employers,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a statement.

Thorough reviews have yet to be conducted to identify all the benefits that will be extended to same-sex domestic partners, but here’s what’s expected to change:

  • Domestic partners of civil service employees can be added to long-term care insurance programs.
  • Employees may be able to use their sick leave to take care of domestic partners and non-biological, non-adopted children.
  • Same-sex partners of Foreign Service members who are officially identified as domestic partners will get diplomatic passports.
  • Partners will be included when calculating payments for a place to live and other allowances for Foreign Service members.
  • Partners of Foreign Service members will be able to visit medical facilities at posts abroad and will be included in medical evacuations from posts abroad.
  • The government will pay for emergency travel by domestic partners to visit seriously ill or injured employees and relatives.
  • Children of same-sex partners of Foreign Service members will also get benefits.
  • Discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender employees in the workplace may be banned.

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These benefits come after President Obama came under fire from the Human Rights Campaign, an organization representing millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, for backing the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines “marriage” as a union exclusively between a man and a woman. 

“We clearly have not been heard, and seen, as what we also are: human beings whose lives, loves, and families are equal to yours,” wrote HRC President Joe Solmonese to President Obama in a recent letter.

“This first step … is a welcome and long-overdue movement towards bringing the government’s policies in line with the overwhelming majority of America’s businesses,” Solmonese said following the President’s decision.

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